Political Theory

A Re-Interpretation of the Normative Foundations of Majority Rule

Mahendra Prasad University of California, Berkeley
There are four standard normative defenses for majority rule on two alternatives: fairness (i.e., May's theorem), epistemic (i.e., Condorcet's jury theorem), utilitarian (i.e., Rae-Taylor theorem), and contractarian (i.e., maximization of the number of self-determined voters). There are many ways to generalize majority rule to multiple alternatives, but the standard generalization is majority preference (i.e., Condorcet method). Unfortunately, these arguments fail to generalize to multiple alternatives due to Condorcet's paradox. In this paper, I generalize each of those four defenses to multiple alternatives using the consent of the majority generalization (e.g., approval voting) of majority rule. For example, I show that among Arrovian voting systems, an Arrovian version of approval voting is the voting system with the least restrictive domain which satisfies May's theorem's four conditions, and independence of irrelevant alternatives. The findings suggest that we should normatively and formally explore multiple interpretations of majority rule, beyond majority preference.