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Unique Virtues of Plurality Rule: Generalizing May's Theorem

Author

Listed:
  • Robert E. Goodin

    (Australian National University)

  • Christian List

    (LSE)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Goodin & Christian List, 2004. "Unique Virtues of Plurality Rule: Generalizing May's Theorem," Public Economics 0409010, EconWPA, revised 22 Dec 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0409010
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 24
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    File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/pe/papers/0409/0409010.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Ching, Stephen, 1996. "A Simple Characterization of Plurality Rule," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 298-302, October.
    3. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "Social Choice Theory: A Re-examination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 53-89, January.
    4. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, April.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:03:p:831-847_15 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Kenneth Shepsle & Barry Weingast, 1981. "Structure-induced equilibrium and legislative choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 503-519, January.
    7. Norman Schofield, 1978. "Instability of Simple Dynamic Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(3), pages 575-594.
    8. Roberts, Fred S., 1991. "Characterizations of the plurality function," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 101-127, April.
    9. McKelvey, Richard D, 1979. "General Conditions for Global Intransitivities in Formal Voting Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1085-1112, September.
    10. Gibbard, Allan, 1973. "Manipulation of Voting Schemes: A General Result," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 587-601, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    May's theorem; plurality rule; simple majority rule;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General

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