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Another Graphical Proof of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem


  • Paul Hansen


Arrow's (1951) Impossibility Theorem is the idea that, given several well-known assumptions, the social orderings of particular alternatives that are meant to reflect individuals' preferences must match the preferences of an arbitrary individual (the dictator). A social-choice rule other than dictatorship is impossible. Following from Fountain (2000), the author presents another graphical proof of the theorem that is intended to be more accessible to students and teachers of economics. The principal strength of this approach is that the patterns of agreements and conflicts over all possible combinations of two individuals' rankings of alternatives are transparent; appreciating these patterns is the key to intuitively understanding Arrow's theorem. A self-test for readers (or a classroom exercise for students) is included.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Hansen, 2002. "Another Graphical Proof of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(3), pages 217-235, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:33:y:2002:i:3:p:217-235
    DOI: 10.1080/00220480209595188

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