This paper generalises the classical Condorcet jury theorem from majority voting over two options to plurality voting over multiple options. The paper further discusses the debate between epistemic and procedural democracy and situates its formal results in that debate. The paper finally compares a number of different social choice procedures for many-option choices in terms of their epistemic merits. An appendix explores the implications of some of the present mathematical results for the question of how probable majority cycles (as (...) in Condorcet's paradox) are in large electorates. (shrink)
Condorcet's famous jury theorem reaches an optimistic conclusion on the correctness of majority decisions, based on two controversial premises about voters: they are competent and vote independently, in a technical sense. I carefully analyse these premises and show that: whether a premise is justi…ed depends on the notion of probability considered; none of the notions renders both premises simultaneously justi…ed. Under the perhaps most interesting notions, the independence assumption should be weakened.
One might think that if the majority of virtue signallers judge that a proposition is true, then there is significant evidence for the truth of that proposition. Given the Condorcet Jury Theorem, individual virtue signallers need not be very reliable for the majority judgment to be very likely to be correct. Thus, even people who are skeptical of the judgments of individual virtue signallers should think that if a majority of them judge that a proposition is true, then that (...) provides significant evidence that the proposition is true. We argue that this is mistaken. Various empirical studies converge on the following point: humans are very conformist in the contexts in which virtue signalling occurs. And stereotypical virtue signallers are even more conformist in such contexts. So we should be skeptical of the claim that virtue signallers are sufficiently independent for the Condorcet Jury Theorem to apply. We do not seek to decisively rule out the relevant application of the Condorcet Jury Theorem. But we do show that careful consideration of the available evidence should make us very skeptical of that application. Consequently, a defense of virtue signalling would need to engage with these findings and show that despite our strong tendencies for conformism, our judgements are sufficiently independent for the Condorcet Jury Theorem to apply. This suggests new directions for the debate about the epistemology of virtue signalling. (shrink)
In his 2010 paper “Philosophical Naturalism and Intuitional Methodology”, Alvin I. Goldman invokes the Condorcet Jury Theorem in order to defend the reliability of intuitions. The present note argues that the original conditions of the theorem are all unrealistic when analysed in connection to the case of intuitions. Alternative conditions are discussed.
My aim in this paper is to explain what Condorcet’s jury theorem is, and to examine its central assumptions, its significance to the epistemic theory of democracy and its connection with Rousseau’s theory of general will. In the first part of the paper I will analyze an epistemic theory of democracy and explain how its connection with Condorcet’s jury theorem is twofold: the theorem is at the same time a contributing historical source, and the model used by the (...) authors to this day. In the second part I will specify the purposes of the theorem itself, and examine its underlying assumptions. Third part will be about an interpretation of Rousseau’s theory, which is given by Grofman and Feld relying on Condorcet’s jury theorem, and about criticisms of such interpretation. In the fourth, and last, part I will focus on one particular assumption of Condorcet’s theorem, which proves to be especially problematic if we would like to apply the theorem under real-life conditions; namely, the assumption that voters choose between two options only. (shrink)
Under the independence and competence assumptions of Condorcet’s classical jury model, the probability of a correct majority decision converges to certainty as the jury size increases, a seemingly unrealistic result. Using Bayesian networks, we argue that the model’s independence assumption requires that the state of the world (guilty or not guilty) is the latest common cause of all jurors’ votes. But often – arguably in all courtroom cases and in many expert panels – the latest such common cause is (...) a shared ‘body of evidence’ observed by the jurors. In the corresponding Bayesian network, the votes are direct descendants not of the state of the world, but of the body of evidence, which in turn is a direct descendant of the state of the world. We develop a model of jury decisions based on this Bayesian network. Our model permits the possibility of misleading evidence, even for a maximally competent observer, which cannot easily be accommodated in the classical model. We prove that (i) the probability of a correct majority verdict converges to the probability that the body of evidence is not misleading, a value typically below 1; (ii) depending on the required threshold of ‘no reasonable doubt’, it may be impossible, even in an arbitrarily large jury, to establish guilt of a defendant ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’. (shrink)
Jury theorems are mathematical theorems about the ability of collectives to make correct decisions. Several jury theorems carry the optimistic message that, in suitable circumstances, ‘crowds are wise’: many individuals together (using, for instance, majority voting) tend to make good decisions, outperforming fewer or just one individual. Jury theorems form the technical core of epistemic arguments for democracy, and provide probabilistic tools for reasoning about the epistemic quality of collective decisions. The popularity of jury theorems spans across various disciplines such (...) as economics, political science, philosophy, and computer science. This entry reviews and critically assesses a variety of jury theorems. It first discusses Condorcet's initial jury theorem, and then progressively introduces jury theorems with more appropriate premises and conclusions. It explains the philosophical foundations, and relates jury theorems to diversity, deliberation, shared evidence, shared perspectives, and other phenomena. It finally connects jury theorems to their historical background and to democratic theory, social epistemology, and social choice theory. (shrink)
We give a review and critique of jury theorems from a social-epistemology perspective, covering Condorcet’s (1785) classic theorem and several later refinements and departures. We assess the plausibility of the conclusions and premises featuring in jury theorems and evaluate the potential of such theorems to serve as formal arguments for the ‘wisdom of crowds’. In particular, we argue (i) that there is a fundamental tension between voters’ independence and voters’ competence, hence between the two premises of most jury theorems; (...) (ii) that the (asymptotic) conclusion that ‘huge groups are infallible’, reached by many jury theorems, is an artifact of unjustified premises; and (iii) that the (nonasymptotic) conclusion that ‘larger groups are more reliable’, also reached by many jury theorems, is not an artifact and should be regarded as the more adequate formal rendition of the ‘wisdom of crowds’. (shrink)
Una de las bifurcaciones en el debate contemporáneo sobre la legitimidad de la democracia explora si ésta ofrece ventajas distintivamente epistémicas frente a otras alternativas políticas. Quienes defienden la tesis de la democracia epistémica afirman que la democracia es instrumentalmente superior o equiparable a otras formas de organización política en lo que concierne a la obtención de varios bienes epistémicos. En este ensayo presento dos (grupos de) argumentos a favor de la democracia epistémica, que se inspiran en resultados formales: el (...) teorema del jurado de Condorcet [TJC] y el teorema ‘diversidad supera habilidad’ [DSH]. Pese a su gran atractivo, sostengo que estos argumentos son incapaces de respaldar dicha tesis: no brindan razones para considerar que la democracia es epistémicamente superior (o equiparable) a algunas alternativas políticas no democráticas. En su lugar, sugiero que, sin requerir un cambio radical en nuestras formas de organización política, la epistemología democrática –el estudio de las ‘circunstancias epistémicas de la democracia’– puede ofrecer valiosas lecciones de sobre cómo optimizar, en nuestra situación, instituciones y procedimientos de toma de decisiones. Para ello, primero distingo entre varias maneras de evaluar procedimientos de toma de decisión colectiva. Argumento que, al considerarlos como formas de organización política, un factor importante en la evaluación de tales procedimientos involucra asuntos fácticos sobre los cuales puede aspirarse a obtener o promover algunos bienes epistémicos. En este contexto, presento algunos de los argumentos más importantes a favor de la democracia epistémica. A continuación, reúno algunas de las objeciones sobre la aplicabilidad de dichos argumentos y ofrezco razones independientes para dudar de que ofrezcan apoyo a la tesis de la democracia epistémica. Finalmente, defiendo que la epistemología democrática puede desempeñar un papel significativo en la legitimación de formas de organización colectiva que podrían denominarse ‘democráticas’. (shrink)
It has been argued that an epistemically rational agent’s evidence is subjectively mediated through some rational epistemic standards, and that there are incompatible but equally rational epistemic standards available to agents. This supports Permissiveness, the view according to which one or multiple fully rational agents are permitted to take distinct incompatible doxastic attitudes towards P (relative to a body of evidence). In this paper, I argue that the above claims entail the existence of a unique and more reliable epistemic standard. (...) My strategy relies on Condorcet’s Jury Theorem. This gives rise to an important problem for those who argue that epistemic standards are permissive, since the reliability criterion is incompatible with such a type of Permissiveness. (shrink)
Can we design a perfect democratic decision procedure? Condorcet famously observed that majority rule, our paradigmatic democratic procedure, has some desirable properties, but sometimes produces inconsistent outcomes. Revisiting Condorcet’s insights in light of recent work on the aggregation of judgments, I show that there is a conflict between three initially plausible requirements of democracy: “robustness to pluralism”, “basic majoritarianism”, and “collective rationality”. For all but the simplest collective decision problems, no decision procedure meets these three requirements at once; (...) at most two can be met together. This “democratic trilemma” raises the question of which requirement to give up. Since different answers correspond to different views about what matters most in a democracy, the trilemma suggests a map of the “logical space” in which different conceptions of democracy are located. It also sharpens our thinking about other impossibility problems of social choice and how to avoid them, by capturing a core structure many of these problems have in common. More broadly, it raises the idea of “cartography of logical space” in relation to contested political concepts. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate, formally, an ambiguity in the exercise of political influence. To wit: A voter might exert influence with an eye toward maximizing the probability that the political system (1) obtains the correct (e.g. just) outcome, or (2) obtains the outcome that he judges to be correct (just). And these are two very different things. A variant of Condorcet's Jury Theorem which incorporates the effect of influence on group competence and interdependence is developed. (...) Analytic and numerical results are obtained, the most important of which is that it is never optimal--from the point-of-view of collective accuracy--for a voter to exert influence without limit. He ought to either refrain from influencing other voters or else exert a finite amount of influence, depending on circumstance. Philosophical lessons are drawn from the model, to include a solution to Wollheim's "Paradox in the Theory of Democracy". (shrink)
Epistemic justifications for democracy have been offered in terms of two different aspects of decision-making: voting and deliberation, or ‘votes’ and ‘talk.’ The Condorcet Jury Theorem is appealed to as a justification in terms votes, and the Hong-Page “Diversity Trumps Ability” result is appealed to as a justification in terms of deliberation. Both of these, however, are most plausibly construed as models of direct democracy, with full and direct participation across the population. In this paper, we explore how these (...) results hold up if we vary the model so as to reflect the more familiar democratic structure of a representative hierarchy. We first recount extant analytic work that shows that representation inevitably weakens the voting results of the Condorcet Jury Theorem, but we question the ability of that result to shine light on real representative systems. We then show that, when we move from votes to talk, as modeled in Hong-Page, representation holds its own and even has a slight edge. (shrink)
Starting from the Age of Enlightenment, a person’s ability of self-improvement, or perfectibility, is usually seen as a fundamental human feature. However, this term, introduced into the philosophical vocabulary by J.-J. Rousseau, gradually acquired additional meaning – largely due to the works of N. de Condorcet, T. Malthus and C. Darwin. Owing to perfectibility, human beings are not only able to work on themselves: by improving their abilities, they are also able to change their environment (both social and natural) (...) and create favorable conditions for their existence. It is no coincidence that perfectibility became the key concept of the idea of social progress proposed by French thinkers in the Age of Enlightenment, despite the fact that later it was criticized, above all, by English authors, who justified its organic and biological nature and gave a different evolutionary interpretation to this concept, without excluding perfectibility from the philosophical vocabulary. In this article, we address the opposition and mutual counterarguments of these two positions. Beyond that, we draw a parallel with some of the ideas of S. Kapitsa, who proved to be not only a critic of Malthusianism but also a direct disciple of Condorcet. In the modern age, the ideas of human self-improvement caused the development of transhumanist movement. Condorcet is more relevant than ever, and today his theory of the progress of the human mind, which influenced the genesis of modern historical science, needs a re-thinking in the newest perspective of improving the mental and physical human nature with the help of modern technologies. (shrink)
(This is for the Cambridge Handbook of Analytic Philosophy, edited by Marcus Rossberg) In this handbook entry, I survey the different ways in which formal mathematical methods have been applied to philosophical questions throughout the history of analytic philosophy. I consider: formalization in symbolic logic, with examples such as Aquinas’ third way and Anselm’s ontological argument; Bayesian confirmation theory, with examples such as the fine-tuning argument for God and the paradox of the ravens; foundations of mathematics, with examples such as (...) Hilbert’s programme and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems; social choice theory, with examples such as Condorcet’s paradox and Arrow’s theorem; ‘how possibly’ results, with examples such as Condorcet’s jury theorem and recent work on intersectionality theory; and the application of advanced mathematics in philosophy, with examples such as accuracy-first epistemology. (shrink)
Epistemic justifications for democracy have been offered in terms of two different aspects of decision-making: voting and deliberation, or 'votes' and 'talk.' The Condorcet Jury Theorem is appealed to as a justification in terms of votes, and the Hong-Page "Diversity Trumps Ability" result is appealed to as a justification in terms of deliberation. Both of these, however, are most plausibly construed as models of direct democracy, with full and direct participation across the population. In this paper, we explore how (...) these results hold up if we vary the model so as to reflect the more familiar democratic structure of a representative hierarchy. We first recount extant analytic work that shows that representation inevitably weakens the voting results of the Condorcet Jury Theorem, but we question the ability of the result to shine light on real representative systems. We then show that, when we move from votes to talk, as modeled in Hong-Page, representation holds its own and even has a slight edge. (shrink)
Can experimental philosophy help us answer central questions about the nature of moral responsibility, such as the question of whether moral responsibility is compatible with determinism? Specifically, can folk judgments in line with a particular answer to that question provide support for that answer. Based on reasoning familiar from Condorcet’s Jury Theorem, such support could be had if individual judges track the truth of the matter independently and with some modest reliability: such reliability quickly aggregates as the number of (...) judges goes up. In this chapter, however, I argue, partly based on empirical evidence, that although non-specialist judgments might on average be more likely than not to get things right, their individual likelihoods fail to aggregate because they do not track truth with sufficient independence. (shrink)
Peer review is often taken to be the main form of quality control on academic research. Usually journals carry this out. However, parts of maths and physics appear to have a parallel, crowd-sourced model of peer review, where papers are posted on the arXiv to be publicly discussed. In this paper we argue that crowd-sourced peer review is likely to do better than journal-solicited peer review at sorting papers by quality. Our argument rests on two key claims. First, crowd-sourced peer (...) review will lead on average to more reviewers per paper than journal-solicited peer review. Second, due to the wisdom of the crowds, more reviewers will tend to make better judgments than fewer. We make the second claim precise by looking at the Condorcet Jury Theorem as well as two related jury theorems developed specifically to apply to peer review. (shrink)
Epistemically immodest agents take their own epistemic standards to be among the most truth-conducive ones available to them. Many philosophers have argued that immodesty is epistemically required of agents, notably because being modest entails a problematic kind of incoherence or self-distrust. In this paper, I argue that modesty is epistemically permitted in some social contexts. I focus on social contexts where agents with limited cognitive capacities cooperate with each other (like juries).
The contemporary theory of epistemic democracy often draws on the Condorcet Jury Theorem to formally justify the ‘wisdom of crowds’. But this theorem is inapplicable in its current form, since one of its premises – voter independence – is notoriously violated. This premise carries responsibility for the theorem's misleading conclusion that ‘large crowds are infallible’. We prove a more useful jury theorem: under defensible premises, ‘large crowds are fallible but better than small groups’. This theorem rehabilitates the importance of (...) deliberation and education, which appear inessential in the classical jury framework. Our theorem is related to Ladha's (1993) seminal jury theorem for interchangeable (‘indistinguishable’) voters based on de Finetti's Theorem. We also prove a more general and simpler such jury theorem. (shrink)
We introduce a family of rules for adjusting one's credences in response to learning the credences of others. These rules have a number of desirable features. 1. They yield the posterior credences that would result from updating by standard Bayesian conditionalization on one's peers' reported credences if one's likelihood function takes a particular simple form. 2. In the simplest form, they are symmetric among the agents in the group. 3. They map neatly onto the familiar Condorcet voting results. 4. (...) They preserve shared agreement about independence in a wide range of cases. 5. They commute with conditionalization and with multiple peer updates. Importantly, these rules have a surprising property that we call synergy - peer testimony of credences can provide mutually supporting evidence raising an individual's credence higher than any peer's initial prior report. At first, this may seem to be a strike against them. We argue, however, that synergy is actually a desirable feature and the failure of other updating rules to yield synergy is a strike against them. (shrink)
The ``doctrinal paradox'' or ``discursive dilemma'' shows that propositionwise majority voting over the judgments held by multiple individuals on some interconnected propositions can lead to inconsistent collective judgments on these propositions. List and Pettit (2002) have proved that this paradox illustrates a more general impossibility theorem showing that there exists no aggregation procedure that generally produces consistent collective judgments and satisfies certain minimal conditions. Although the paradox and the theorem concern the aggregation of judgments rather than preferences, they invite comparison (...) with two established results on the aggregation of preferences: the Condorcet paradox and Arrow's impossibility theorem. We may ask whether the new impossibility theorem is a special case of Arrow's theorem, or whether there are interesting disanalogies between the two results. In this paper, we compare the two theorems, and show that they are not straightforward corollaries of each other. We further suggest that, while the framework of preference aggregation can be mapped into the framework of judgment aggregation, there exists no obvious reverse mapping. Finally, we address one particular minimal condition that is used in both theorems – an independence condition – and suggest that this condition points towards a unifying property underlying both impossibility results. (shrink)
Recent political developments cast doubt on the wisdom of democratic decision-making. Brexit, the Colombian people's (initial) rejection of peace with the FARC, and the election of Donald Trump suggest that the time is right to explore alternatives to democracy. In this essay, I describe and defend the epistocratic system of government which is, given current theoretical and empirical knowledge, most likely to produce optimal political outcomes—or at least better outcomes than democracy produces. To wit, we should expand the suffrage as (...) wide as possible and weight citizens’ votes in accordance with their competence. As it turns out, the optimal system is closely related to J. S. Mill's plural voting proposal. I also explain how voters’ competences can be precisely determined, without reference to an objective standard of correctness and without generating invidious comparisons between voters. (shrink)
In response to recent work on the aggregation of individual judgments on logically connected propositions into collective judgments, it is often asked whether judgment aggregation is a special case of Arrowian preference aggregation. We argue for the converse claim. After proving two impossibility theorems on judgment aggregation (using "systematicity" and "independence" conditions, respectively), we construct an embedding of preference aggregation into judgment aggregation and prove Arrow’s theorem (stated for strict preferences) as a corollary of our second result. Although we thereby (...) provide a new proof of Arrow’s theorem, our main aim is to identify the analogue of Arrow’s theorem in judgment aggregation, to clarify the relation between judgment and preference aggregation, and to illustrate the generality of the judgment aggregation model. JEL Classi…cation: D70, D71.. (shrink)
The Hong and Page ‘diversity trumps ability’ result has been used to argue for the more general claim that a diverse set of agents is epistemically superior to a comparable group of experts. Here we extend Hong and Page’s model to landscapes of different degrees of randomness and demonstrate the sensitivity of the ‘diversity trumps ability’ result. This analysis offers a more nuanced picture of how diversity, ability, and expertise may relate. Although models of this sort can indeed be suggestive (...) for diversity policies, we advise against interpreting such results overly broadly. (shrink)
This paper provides an introductory review of the theory of judgment aggregation. It introduces the paradoxes of majority voting that originally motivated the field, explains several key results on the impossibility of propositionwise judgment aggregation, presents a pedagogical proof of one of those results, discusses escape routes from the impossibility and relates judgment aggregation to some other salient aggregation problems, such as preference aggregation, abstract aggregation and probability aggregation. The present illustrative rather than exhaustive review is intended to give readers (...) new to the field of judgment aggregation a sense of this rapidly growing research area. (shrink)
How can democratic governments be relied upon to achieve adequate political knowledge when they turn over their authority to those of no epistemic distinction whatsoever? This deep and longstanding concern is one that any proponent of epistemic conceptions of democracy must take seriously. While Condorcetian responses have recently attracted substantial interest, they are largely undermined by a fundamental neglect of agenda-setting. I argue that the apparent intractability of the problem of epistemic adequacy in democracy stems in large part from a (...) failure to appreciate the social character of political knowledge. A social point of view brings into focus a number of vital factors that bear on our understanding of democratic epistemology and our assessment of its prospects: the essential role of inclusive deliberation, the public's agenda-setting function, institutional provisions for policy feedback, the independence of expert communities, and the knowledge-pooling powers of markets. (shrink)
Frente a problemas de decisión colectiva de cierta complejidad, distintos métodos de votación pueden considerarse igualmente democráticos. Ante esta situación, argumento que es posible investigar cuáles de esos métodos producen mejores resultados epistémicos sobre asuntos fácticos. Comienzo ilustrando la relación entre democracia y métodos de votación con un sencillo ejemplo. Muestro cómo el uso de modelos idealizados permite descubrir algunas propiedades de los métodos de votación; varios de estos descubrimientos muestran que, frente a problemas de cierta complejidad, no hay una (...) respuesta clara acerca de cuál es el resultado de una elección democrática. Frente a esto, sugiero que deberíamos tomar en cuenta un rasgo epistémico instrumental de varios métodos de votación: su capacidad para generar respuestas correctas ante varias situaciones. Esta intuición ofrece lecciones importantes para el diseño de instituciones electorales. (shrink)
Why should be ‘better than’ be transitive? The leading answer in ethics is that values do not change with context. But this cannot be the entire source of transitivity, I argue, since transitivity can fail even if values never change, so long as they are complex, with multiple dimensions combined non-additively. I conclude by exploring a new hypothesis: that all alleged cases of nontransitive betterness, such as Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion, can and should be modeled as the result of complexity, not (...) context-relativity. (shrink)
In normative political theory, it is widely accepted that democracy cannot be reduced to voting alone, but that it requires deliberation. In formal social choice theory, by contrast, the study of democracy has focused primarily on the aggregation of individual opinions into collective decisions, typically through voting. While the literature on deliberation has an optimistic flavour, the literature on social choice is more mixed. It is centred around several paradoxes and impossibility results identifying conflicts between different intuitively plausible desiderata. In (...) recent years, there has been a growing dialogue between the two literatures. This paper discusses the connections between them. Important insights are that (i) deliberation can complement aggregation and open up an escape route from some of its negative results; and (ii) the formal models of social choice theory can shed light on some aspects of deliberation, such as the nature of deliberation-induced opinion change. (shrink)
This book describes the philosophical principles underlying the doctrine (the political project) often called “classical liberalism”. By this expression we mean, in this book, the project for society proposed, during the second half of the eighteenth century, by David Hume and Adam Smith in Great Britain, Turgot and Condorcet in France, Thomas Jefferson in the United States and Kant and Humboldt in Germany. The differences between the principles of “classical liberalism” and those of the extreme doctrines of Milton Friedman (...) and Friedrich Hayek (often confused with 'classical liberalism') are clearly explained. -/- This book has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, Rumanian and Turkish. -/- Several scholars have done me the honor of posting a .pdf version of this work (which is no longer available in paper form). Here are three excellent versions that are easily found : -/- "Les fondements philosophiques du libéralisme jugurtha noblogs" (224 pages), "Les fondements philosophiques du libéralisme" (224 pages), in ZLibrary. -/- "Les fondements philosophiques du libéralisme abdelmagidzarrouki" (224 pages), -/- . (shrink)
Majority cycling and related social choice paradoxes are often thought to threaten the meaningfulness of democracy. But deliberation can prevent majority cycles – not by inducing unanimity, which is unrealistic, but by bringing preferences closer to single-peakedness. We present the first empirical test of this hypothesis, using data from Deliberative Polls. Comparing preferences before and after deliberation, we find increases in proximity to single-peakedness. The increases are greater for lower versus higher salience issues and for individuals who seem to have (...) deliberated more versus less effectively. They are not merely a byproduct of increased substantive agreement. Our results both refine and support the idea that deliberation, by increasing proximity to single-peakedness, provides an escape from the problem of majority cycling. (shrink)
This volume discusses the ideas of six leading thinkers of the French Enlightenment: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Holbach, and Condorcet. A general introduction surveys the political theories of the Enlightenment, setting them in the context of the political realities of 18th-century France. The first book of its kind on the subject, Philosophers and Pamphleteers brings a welcome, new perspective to the study of French political thought during a fascinating historical era.
In this paper, we argue that computer simulations can provide valuable insights into the performance of voting methods on different collective decision problems. This could improve institutional design, even when there is no general theoretical result to support the optimality of a voting method. To support our claim, we first describe a decision problem that has not received much theoretical attention in the literature. We outline different voting methods to address that collective decision problem. Under certain criteria of assessment akin (...) to extensions of the Condorcet Jury Theorem, we run simulations for the methods using MATLAB, in order to compare their performance under various conditions. We consider and respond to concerns about the use of simulations in the assessment of voting procedures for policymaking. (shrink)
In this study I analyse the performance of a democratic decision-making rule: the weighted majority rule. It assigns to each voter a number of votes that is proportional to her stakes in the decision. It has been shown that, for collective decisions with two options, the weighted majority rule in combination with self-interested voters maximises the common good when the latter is understood in terms of either the sum-total or prioritarian sum of the voters’ well-being. The main result of my (...) study is that this argument for the weighted majority rule — that it maximises the common good — can be improved along the following three main lines. (1) The argument can be adapted to other criteria of the common good, such as sufficientarian, maximin, leximin or non-welfarist criteria. I propose a generic argument for the collective optimality of the weighted majority rule that works for all of these criteria. (2) The assumption of self-interested voters can be relaxed. First, common-interest voters can be accommodated. Second, even if voters are less than fully competent in judging their self-interest or the common interest, the weighted majority rule is weakly collectively optimal, that is, it almost certainly maximises the common good given large numbers of voters. Third, even for smaller groups of voters, the weighted majority rule still has some attractive features. (3) The scope of the argument can be extended to decisions with more than two options. I state the conditions under which the weighted majority rule maximises the common good even in multi-option contexts. I also analyse the possibility and the detrimental effects of strategic voting. Furthermore, I argue that self-interested voters have reason to accept the weighted majority rule. (shrink)
One of Marcuse's most salient concepts, The Great Refusal nevertheless exhibits considerable internal tension as it hovers between its individualistic and collectivist conceptualizations. Central to this unresolved dichotomy is the concept of reification, which leads Marcuse to subsume individual experience beneath the umbrella of the abstract universal, following Marx. Yet the Great Refusal is purported by Marcuse to issue from a purely individual rejection of the capitalist system of domination. I explore these contradictions in light of Marcuse's critique of technology (...) under capitalism, looking back to Condorcet and Torgot and the implied Myth of Progress these thinkers embrace, with a view to the implementation of a more satisfying articulation of what might be termed the "anarcho-psychological critique" of self and society. (shrink)
There is a substantial class of collective decision problems whose successful solution requires interdependence among decision makers at the agenda-setting stage and independence at the stage of choice. We define this class of problems and describe and apply a search-and-decision mechanism theoretically modeled in the context of honeybees and identified in earlier empirical work in biology. The honeybees’ mechanism has useful implications for mechanism design in human institutions, including courts, legislatures, executive appointments, research and development in firms, and basic research (...) in the sciences. Our paper offers a fresh perspective on the idea of “biomimicry” in institutional design and raises the possibility of comparative institutional analysis across species. (shrink)
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