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Unique Virtues of Plurality Rule: Generalizing May's Theorem

  • Robert E. Goodin

    (Australian National University)

  • Christian List

    (LSE)

May's theorem famously shows that, in social decisions between two options, simple majority rule uniquely satisfies four appealing conditions. Although this result is often cited as a general argument for majority rule, it has never been extended beyond pairwise decisions. Here we generalize May's theorem to decisions between many options where voters each cast one vote. We show that, surprisingly, plurality rule uniquely satisfies May's conditions. Our result suggests a conditional defense of plurality rule: If a society's balloting procedure collects only a single vote from each voter, then plurality rule is the uniquely compelling procedure for electoral decisions. First version: 15 September 2004; this version version 22 December 2005.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/pe/papers/0409/0409010.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0409010.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 15 Sep 2004
Date of revision: 22 Dec 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0409010
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 24
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. Ching, Stephen, 1996. "A Simple Characterization of Plurality Rule," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 298-302, October.
  2. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "Social Choice Theory: A Re-examination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 53-89, January.
  3. Schofield, Norman, 1978. "Instability of Simple Dynamic Games," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 575-94, October.
  4. Sen, Amartya & Pattanaik, Prasanta K., 1969. "Necessary and sufficient conditions for rational choice under majority decision," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 178-202, August.
  5. Gibbard, Allan, 1973. "Manipulation of Voting Schemes: A General Result," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 587-601, July.
  6. McKelvey, Richard D, 1979. "General Conditions for Global Intransitivities in Formal Voting Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1085-1112, September.
  7. Roberts, Fred S., 1991. "Characterizations of the plurality function," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 101-127, April.
  8. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521894753 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Kenneth Shepsle & Barry Weingast, 1981. "Structure-induced equilibrium and legislative choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 503-519, January.
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