Environmental Quality and Residuals Management: Report of a Research Program on Economic, Technological, and Institutional Aspects

By Allen V. Kneese; Blair T. Bower | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Collective Choice and REQM Problems
To motivate the discussion of how political, that is, collective choice, considerations were embodied in the structure of the Russell-Spofford conceptual model, we established the fact that collective choices have to be made about environmental quality. This conclusion leads inevitably to difficult fundamental questions about the structure of the political institutions for making them. This centrally important topic will be discussed before describing a case study of regional REQM.
The Theory of Collective Choice
Kenneth Arrow pioneered the modern study of collective choice processes in his landmark book, Social Choice and Individual Values.1 In it he laid down a set of properties that a desirable social choice mechanism could reasonably be expected to have. These properties, as he has recently restated them, are:
1. Collective Rationality: In any given set of individual preferences, the social preferences are derivable from the individual preferences.
2. Pareto Principle: If alternative A is preferred to alternative B by every single individual, then the social ordering ranks A above B.
3. Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives: The social choices made from any environment depend only on the preferences of individuals with respect to the alternatives in that environment.
4. Non-dictatorship: There is no individual whose preferences are automatically society's preferences, independent of the preferences of other individuals.2

Arrow analyzed voting situations rigorously with these conditions in mind and found that, in general, no mechanism could be devised that consistently met them all. This is his famous "impossibility theorem."

____________________
1
Kenneth J. Arrow, Social Choice and Individual Values, 2nd ed. ( New York, Wiley, 1963).
2
Kenneth J. Arrow, "Public and Private Values," in S. Hook, ed., Human Values and Economic Policy ( New York, New York University Press, 1967) pp. 3-21.

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