Civics Lesson

— Nice little piece on the The Bizarre Math of Elections by physicist Richard Muller.

I think high school kids all ought to learn a bit of social choice theory in high school civics class. Sure, in some sense knowing the truth about democracy can make us a little cynical, but the cynicism is simply a reaction to massively unreasonable expectations created by Rousseauvian myths about the general will. We should know how the electoral rules of the game make some outcomes more likely, and other outcomes–outcomes we might very much like to see–impossible. A lot turns on how we choose the rules of elections. But we have to choose some rules. It’s a bit of a paradox is that in order to get the best rules for democratic choice, those rules probably have to be chosen non-democratically.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center