In the video below, Professor Ian Shapiro examines the democratic tradition through the lens of majority rule. What is it about majority rule that confers legitimacy on collective decisions? Is there any validity to a utilitarian justification, that catering to the wishes of the majority maximizes the happiness of the greatest number? Does majority rule reflect what Rousseau called the general will? What is the general will? Does Arrow’s paradox indicate that the results of voting are arbitrary? Is majority rule just an exercise in realpolitik? Professor Shapiro makes the point that crosscutting cleavages discussed in an earlier lecture are the key to unlocking majority rule and limiting the possibility of domination. Although one may be in the majority today, the possibility of being in the minority tomorrow prevents tyranny. Several models of democracy are discussed: the public choice model of Buchanan and Tullock, Rae and Barry’s critique of this model, Schumpeter’s marketplace model, the Hotelling-Downs median voter theorem, and Huntington’s two turnover test.
Read a transcript of Professor Shapiro’s lecture here.