What's a Free Election worth?
As we go into the 54th Presidential elections under the US Constitution, two things , possibly related, have struck me. The first is the elections in Afghanistan. Millions of people ignored threats and went out to vote. Millions of them were women, given a say in their country’s government for the first time. The other is the petty, partisan squabbling that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of whoever wins the election tomorrow.
Cynicism runs so high that millions of Americans don’t expect we’ll know who the President is until tomorrow. But this costs our government legitimacy, and that legitimacy is important. If you don’t think that the government is fairly elected, if you think that the election was stolen, then why not take up arms against the pretender?
After we all cast votes, the most powerful man in the world writes his successor a letter, walks out of the oval office, and hands his job over to someone he’s just spent months saying is under-qualified. This is the gift of democracy, and it’s what Lincoln called the last, best hope of mankind.
You can tell I’ve been reading too much economics, because I have two questions. What are free, trusted elections worth? That is, how much should a rational person pay to never worry that there are contenders for the role of King? (There may be a separable question, which is what about a peaceful transfer without democracy?) My second question is what’s the damage caused by all the games people are playing? All of the lawsuits, rumors, and mudslinging that threaten the legitimacy of our government: How much should we pay to be rid of them?