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Decision-Rules and Individual Values in Constitutional Choice


  • Rae, Douglas W.


Once a political community has decided which of its members are to participate directly in the making of collective policy, an important question remains: “How many of them must agree before a policy is imposed on the community?†Only if participation is limited to one man does this question become trivial. And this choice of decision-rules may seem only a little less important than the choice of rules in a world so largely governed by committees, councils, conventions, and legislatures. This paper is about the consequences of these rules for individual values.Both the oral and written traditions of political theory have generally confined the search for optimal (or “best†) decision-rules to three alternatives. The rule of consensus tells us that all direct participants must agree on a policy which is to be imposed. Majority-rule tells us that more than half must concur in a policy if it is to be imposed. And the rule of individual initiative (as we may call it), holds that a policy is imposed when any single participant approves of it. These three decision-rules—“everyone,†“most of us,†and “anyone†—are terribly important, but they cannot be said to exhaust the available alternatives.The list of alternatives is just as long as a committee's roster. Only for a committee of three would ‘consensus,’ ‘majority’ and ‘individual initiative’ exhaust the possibilities. In a committee of n members, we have n possible rules. Let the decision-rule be a minimum number of individuals (k) required to impose a policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Rae, Douglas W., 1969. "Decision-Rules and Individual Values in Constitutional Choice," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(1), pages 40-56, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:63:y:1969:i:01:p:40-56_26

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