Arrow's theorem, ultrafilters, and reverse mathematics

Review of Symbolic Logic (forthcoming)
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This paper initiates the reverse mathematics of social choice theory, studying Arrow's impossibility theorem and related results including Fishburn's possibility theorem and the Kirman–Sondermann theorem within the framework of reverse mathematics. We formalise fundamental notions of social choice theory in second-order arithmetic, yielding a definition of countable society which is tractable in RCA0. We then show that the Kirman–Sondermann analysis of social welfare functions can be carried out in RCA0. This approach yields a proof of Arrow's theorem in RCA0, and thus in PRA, since Arrow's theorem can be formalised as a Π01 sentence. Finally we show that Fishburn's possibility theorem for countable societies is equivalent to ACA0 over RCA0.

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Benedict Eastaugh
University of Warwick


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