IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Use of Coleman's Power Indices to Inform the Choice of Voting Rule with Reference to the IMF Governing Body and the EU Council of Ministers


  • Leech, Dennis


In his well known 1971 paper the mathematical sociologist James S. Coleman, proposed three measures of voting power: (1) "the power of a collectivity to act", (2) "the power to prevent action" and (3) "the power to initiate action". (1) is a measure of the overall decisiveness of a voting body taking into account its size, decision rule and the weights of its members, while (2) and (3) are separate indices of the power of individual members, in being able to block or achieve decisions. These measures seem to have been little used for a variety of reasons, although the paper itself is widely cited. First, much of the power indices literature has focused on normalised indices which gives no role to (1) and means that (2) and (3) are identical. Second, Coleman's coalition model is different from that of Shapley and Shubik which has sometimes tended to dominate in discussions of voting power. Third, (2) and (3) are indistinguishable when the decision quota is a simple majority, the distinction becoming important in other voting situations. In this paper I propose that these indices, which are based on a fundamentally different notion of power than that assumed by game-theoretic approaches, have a useful role in aiding a better understanding of collective institutions in which decisions are taken by voting. I use them to illustrate different aspects of the design of a weighted voting system such as the governing body of the IMF or World Bank, or the system of QMV in the European Council.

Suggested Citation

  • Leech, Dennis, 2002. "The Use of Coleman's Power Indices to Inform the Choice of Voting Rule with Reference to the IMF Governing Body and the EU Council of Ministers," Economic Research Papers 269458, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uwarer:269458

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dennis Leech, 2002. "Voting Power in the Governance of the International Monetary Fund," Annals of Operations Research, Springer, vol. 109(1), pages 375-397, January.
    2. Cubbin, John S & Leech, Dennis, 1983. "The Effect of Shareholding Dispersion on the Degree of Control in British Companies: Theory and Measurement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(37), pages 351-369, June.
    3. R J Johnston, 1978. "On the Measurement of Power: Some Reactions to Laver," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 10(8), pages 907-914, August.
    4. Leech, Dennis, 2002. "Voting Power In The Governance Of The International Monetary Fund," Economic Research Papers 269354, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:48:y:1954:i:03:p:787-792_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. James Coleman, 1970. "The benefits of coalition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 45-61, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Matthew Gould & Matthew D. Rablen, 2017. "Reform of the United Nations Security Council: equity and efficiency," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 173(1), pages 145-168, October.

    More about this item


    Political Economy; Public Economics;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:uwarer:269458. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.