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Published June 1998 | Published
Journal Article Open

Social choice theory, game theory, and positive political theory


We consider the relationships between the collective preference and non-cooperative game theory approaches to positive political theory. In particular, we show that an apparently decisive difference between the two approachesthat in sufficiently complex environments (e.g. high-dimensional choice spaces) direct preference aggregation models are incapable of generating any prediction at all, whereas non-cooperative game-theoretic models almost always generate predictionis indeed only an apparent difference. More generally, we argue that when modeling collective decisions there is a fundamental tension between insuring existence of well-defined predictions, a criterion of minimal democracy, and general applicability to complex environments; while any two of the three are compatible under either approach, neither collective preference nor non-cooperative game theory can support models that simultaneously satisfy all three desiderata.

Additional Information

© 1998 by Annual Reviews. This paper was completed while the second author was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by the National Science Foundation under Grant SBR-9601236.

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