Public Choice (forthcoming)

Authors
Sean Ingham
University of California, San Diego
Abstract
Riker (1982) famously argued that Arrow’s impossibility theorem undermined the logical foundations of “populism”, the view that in a democracy, laws and policies ought to express “the will of the people”. In response, his critics have questioned the use of Arrow’s theorem on the grounds that not all configurations of preferences are likely to occur in practice; the critics allege, in particular, that majority preference cycles, whose possibility the theorem exploits, rarely happen. In this essay, I argue that the critics’ rejoinder to Riker misses the mark even if its factual claim about preferences is correct: Arrow’s theorem and related results threaten the populist’s principle of democratic legitimacy even if majority preference cycles never occur. In this particular context, the assumption of an unrestricted domain is justified irrespective of the preferences citizens are likely to have.
Keywords Arrow’s impossibility theorem, populism, democratic legitimacy, popular will
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References found in this work BETA

Against Democracy: New Preface.Jason Brennan - 2016 - Princeton University Press.
Social Choice and Individual Values.Irving M. Copi - 1952 - Science and Society 16 (2):181-181.
Law and Disagreement.Jeremy Waldron - 1998 - Oxford University Press UK.
On Economic Inequality.Amartya Sen - 1997 - Clarendon Press.

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