Democracy and the Common Good: A Study of the Weighted Majority Rule

Dissertation, Stockholm University (2013)


In this study I analyse the performance of a democratic decision-making rule: the weighted majority rule. It assigns to each voter a number of votes that is proportional to her stakes in the decision. It has been shown that, for collective decisions with two options, the weighted majority rule in combination with self-interested voters maximises the common good when the latter is understood in terms of either the sum-total or prioritarian sum of the voters’ well-being. The main result of my study is that this argument for the weighted majority rule — that it maximises the common good — can be improved along the following three main lines. (1) The argument can be adapted to other criteria of the common good, such as sufficientarian, maximin, leximin or non-welfarist criteria. I propose a generic argument for the collective optimality of the weighted majority rule that works for all of these criteria. (2) The assumption of self-interested voters can be relaxed. First, common-interest voters can be accommodated. Second, even if voters are less than fully competent in judging their self-interest or the common interest, the weighted majority rule is weakly collectively optimal, that is, it almost certainly maximises the common good given large numbers of voters. Third, even for smaller groups of voters, the weighted majority rule still has some attractive features. (3) The scope of the argument can be extended to decisions with more than two options. I state the conditions under which the weighted majority rule maximises the common good even in multi-option contexts. I also analyse the possibility and the detrimental effects of strategic voting. Furthermore, I argue that self-interested voters have reason to accept the weighted majority rule.

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Author's Profile

Katharina Berndt Rasmussen
Institute For Futures Studies, Stockholm

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

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