Mathematics vs. Democracy: A Clear Winner or a Tie Game?
August 27, 2007 12:11 PM Subscribe
The Marquis de Condorcet and Admiral Jean-Charles de Borda were two men of the French Enlightenment who struggled with how to design voting systems that accurately reflected voters' preferences. Condorcet favored a method that required the winner in a multiparty election to win a series of head-to-head contests, but he also discovered that his method easily led to a paradoxes that produced no clear winners. The Borda method avoids the Condorcet paradox by requiring voters to rank choices numerically in order of preference, but this method is flawed because the withdrawal of a last-place candidate can reverse the election results. Mathematicians in the 19th century attempted to design better voting systems, including Lewis Carroll, who favored an early form of proportional representation. Economist Kenneth Arrow argued that designing a perfect voting system was futile, because his "impossibility theorem" proved that it's impossible to design a non-dictatorial voting system that fulfills five basic criteria of fairness. (more inside)
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