Ebay is definitely faster than political scientists.
The latter still have to finally decide whether voting is rational. Actually, from a strict rational choice perspective, it isn’t. The infinitesimal decision making power of any individual vote cast in general elections does not justify the amount of resources committed to the act of voting.
But still, people DO vote, for whichever reason. And not only do a lot of people vote, some of them also attribute a much higher value to the infinitesimal influence of an individual vote than most of us would anticipate as this story, published by Spiegel Online, about people trying to sell their right to vote on ebay.de confers.
Needless to say, it’s illegal to do so, which is why you will no longer find the auctions mentioned in the article on ebay. As soon as they’re notified about such auctions, the auctions will be blocked.
But despite the illegality of such auctions, I wonder whether they could not become a prime research laboratory concerning questions like the one mentioned above? I would really like to know how much people would be willing to pay for the assurance of someone they have only had e-contact with to vote for their preferred party in the seclusion of the voting booth – in a month.
Why should the sellers even think about honouring their commitment if there is no way for the buyers to check the results? It’s plain moral hazard. Which mechanisms would sellers develop to credibly bind themselves to an uncontrollable as well as unenforcable agreement? Why did they have to block these auctions? This is the stuff prime economists get their Nobel prices for.