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Freedom and TimeA Theory of Constitutional Self-Government$
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Jed Rubenfeld

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300080483

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300080483.001.0001

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Reason over Time

Reason over Time

(p.103) Six Reason over Time
Freedom and Time

Jed Rubenfeld

Yale University Press

According to Kenneth Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, there is no consistent method of making a fair choice among three or more candidates using a preferential voting method. Based on an understanding of rationality that is untenably compressed in its temporality—compressed into the present—this theorem depends in large part on certain voting “paradoxes” discovered by Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet. In turn, these paradoxes reflect the present-tense conception of democracy to which Condorcet, no less than Thomas Jefferson, was devoted. Arrow's rationality condition essentially requires only that preferences be transitive. This chapter examines the relationship between rationality and intransitive preferences, along with the notion that Arrow's Impossibility Theorem reveals a special problem of irrationality for democratic (but not individual) decision-making, undermining the ideal of collective (but not individual) rationality and hence of collective (but not individual) self-government.

Keywords:   self-government, Kenneth Arrow, Impossibility Theorem, rationality, temporality, voting paradoxes, Marquis de Condorcet, democracy, intransitive preferences, irrationality

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