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Epistemic aspects of representative government

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2011

Robert E. Goodin
Affiliation:
School of Philosophy, Australian National University, Canberra ACT, Australia Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester, UK
Kai Spiekermann
Affiliation:
Department of Government, London School of Economics, London, UK
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

The Federalist, justifying the Electoral College to elect the president, claimed that a small group of more informed individuals would make a better decision than the general mass. But the Condorcet Jury Theorem tells us that the more independent, better-than-random voters there are, the more likely it will be that the majority among them will be correct. The question thus arises as to how much better, on average, members of the smaller group would have to be to compensate for the epistemic costs of making decisions on the basis of that many fewer votes. This question is explored in the contexts of referendum democracy, delegate-style representative democracy, and trustee-style representative democracy.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2011

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