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Social Choice Theory


  • David Austen-Smith
  • Jeffrey S. Banks


In this paper, we consider relationships between the collective preference and the non-cooperative game-theoretic approaches to positive political theory. In particular, we show that an apparently decisive difference between the two approaches - that in sufficiently complex environments (e.g. high dimensional choice spaces) direct preference aggregation models are incapable of generating any prediction at all, whereas non-cooperative game-theoretic models almost always generate predictions - is indeed only an apparent difference. More generally, we argue that there is a fundamental tension when modeling collective decisions between insuring existence of well-defined predictions, a criterion of minimal democracy and general applicability to complex environments: while any two of the three are compatible under either approach, neither collective preference nor non-cooperative game theory can support models that simultaneously satisfy all three desiderata.

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  • David Austen-Smith & Jeffrey S. Banks, 1997. "Social Choice Theory," Discussion Papers 1196, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1196

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1985. "On Endogenous Competitive Business Cycles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(5), pages 995-1045, September.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:85:y:1991:i:01:p:137-164_17 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Daniel Diermeier & Timothy J. Feddersen, 1996. "Disciplined Coalitions and Redistribution: The Effect of the Vote of Confidence Procedure on Legislative Bargaining," Discussion Papers 1171, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    4. Roger B. Myerson, 1996. "Economic Analysis of Political Institutions: An Introduction," Discussion Papers 1155, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Buchanan & Yong Yoon, 2006. "All voting is strategic," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 159-167, October.

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