The Paradox of Voting : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

The final destination in our voyage is Kenneth Arrow, a Stanford University economist who extended the opportunity for nausea to all economists and political scientists who study the issue. In his 1951 book, Social Choice and Individual Values, Arrow mathematically demonstrated that the discovery of Condorcet, Dodgson and Black was only a special case of a more general theorem: Whatever the decision mechanism used, a social choice cannot be both democratic and rational. If all individual preferences are to count equally and given a few other axioms, a social choice must be either irrational or imposed by some on others. For his work, Arrow along with with John Hicks won the 1972 Nobel Prize in economics.

The political implications are striking. Saying “we as a society” means one of two things: “We who agree with the choice imposed on others,” or, “We are irrational in this choice, and could as well have chosen something else.” In other words, “we as a society” does not really exist, except perhaps with respect to a few fundamental values on which unanimity obtains.

via The Paradox of Voting : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education.

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