Friday, July 27, 2007

How to win an election with less money, or how to have efficient money politics

Welcome to the country where (vulgar) money politics is a common norm. Can you win a (local) election without money to buy votes? Very unlikely.

So money matters, but can you win the game if you have less money than your opponent? You might think it can't be. Money speaks and more money speaks louder.

But perhaps you can still make it.

Suppose your opponent has paid IDR 50,000 for each possible voters, and with the money you have, you can only pay IDR 10,000. My strategy would be to declare that I will give that IDR 10,000 to the voters, not now, but only after I win the election.

The rational voters will take IDR 50,000 from my rival, but vote for me. Why? Because it increases their probability to get additional IDR 10,000 from me --the amount that I will disburse only when I get elected.

But maybe things won't be that easy, my opponent might know my trick. If so, he/she will think that IDR 50,000 is too high and go for, say, IDR 15,000 --he/she is still richer than me, remember?

Let the game repeats. At the end of the day, we have the most efficient money bribe rate, do we?


  1. Unfortunately, people is short sighted and myopic. They don't see the game in perfect foresight model. This is explain why prisoners dillema exist. People tend to do short term maximization, where the cost of information is low, and don not really care about teh future because cost of getting information is high

  2. rizal, are you asking the voters to believe that you are really going to give them the IDR 10,000 after you won the election? Politisi = Janji surga...:-)

  3. it only works for the poor, jobless people, students, convicts, etc who really need the money.

  4. sorry, i just realised convicts are not voters.

  5. bang,
    I think it's possible that your rival uses this strategy: pays IDR 10,000 before the election and promises to pay IDR 10,000 after the election (it costs lower). Suppose you have only IDR 10,000, then whatever strategy you choose, you tend to lose. In the end money politics (or money for politics) is like an auction, those who pay higher will get higher voters. But this assumes that there is no deviation behaviour by the voters (I mean, voters vote to those bribing higher).

  6. I wonder, does the two politicians know exactly the true value of one vote? And whether they both value a vote the same or differently? That would effect the strategy. Or is it irrelevant to the story since in politics everything is overvalued?

  7. Pasha: "I wonder, does the two politicians know exactly the true value of one vote?"

    Which is I think the missing important part of the story: the a priori knowledge of each politician on how many swinging vs. decisive voters are there.

    The story is relevant if all voters are swinging, or if each candidate have already secured equal share of decisive voters. Otherwise, the marginal value of a voter would be different to each candidate. Hence, we'll need a different model, or at least setting, to explain the game.