The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law

By Ward Farnsworth | Go to book overview

15 Voting Paradoxes

We now turn to a different sort of problem involving coordination between people. It often happens in law that we want to take the views of more than one person—maybe the views of a lot of people—and amass them into a general preference or judgment. The views could be those of everyone in the country, or all the members of the Senate or some other legislature, or all the Justices of the Supreme Court. So the members of those groups vote, and we say that the result reflects what the largest number of them want. But there are problems below the surface of these procedures that make them trickier than they seem.

The first basic difficulty is known as the Condorcet voting paradox, for the Marquis de Condorcet (con-dor-SAY gets the pronunciation close enough; we look briefly at another of his ideas, the jury theorem, in the discussion of reasonable doubt in chapter 28). It arises when people are picking among more than two choices. To illustrate the basic idea, consider a presidential election like the one held in 1992. There were three main choices: George Bush (the first one), Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, a popular independent candidate. Think of the election being decided by three people, or three groups of people, who have the following preferences:

Which candidate should win? Clearly not Clinton, for although he is the first choice of the first voter, the other two both would prefer Bush over him. But it wouldn’t make sense for Bush to win, either, because the first and second voters both would prefer Perot to him. So evidently Perot should win—except that voters one and three both would rather have Clinton. Now you see the trouble: the preferences of a group don’t

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The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Part I - Incentives 1
  • 1 - Ex Ante and Ex Post 3
  • 2 - The Idea of Efficiency 13
  • 3 - Thinking at the Margin 24
  • 4 - The Single Owner 37
  • 5 - The Least Cost Avoider 47
  • 6 - Administrative Cost 57
  • 7 - Rents 66
  • 8 - The Coase Theorem 75
  • Part II - Trust, Cooperation, and Other Problems for Multiple Players 85
  • 9 - Agency with Eric Posner 87
  • 10 - The Prisoner's Dilemma 100
  • 11 - Public Goods 109
  • 12 - The Stag Hunt 117
  • 13 - Chicken 126
  • 14 - Cascades 136
  • 15 - Voting Paradoxes 144
  • 16 - Suppressed Markets with Saul Levmore 152
  • Part III - Jurisprudence 161
  • 17 - Rules and Standards 163
  • 18 - Slippery Slopes with Eugene Volokh 172
  • 19 - Acoustic Separation 182
  • 20 - Property Rules and Liability Rules 188
  • 21 - Baselines 198
  • Part IV - Psychology 207
  • 22 - Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Accept- The Endowment Effect and Kindred Ideas 209
  • 23 - Hindsight Bias 218
  • 24 - Framing Effects 224
  • 25 - Anchoring 230
  • 26 - Self-Serving Bias, with a Note on Attribution Error 237
  • Part V - Problems of Proof 247
  • 27 - Acoustic Separation 249
  • 28 - Standards of Proof 257
  • 29 - The Product Rule 273
  • 30 - The Base Rate 281
  • 31 - Value and Markets 294
  • Notes 305
  • Author Index 329
  • Subject Index 335
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