Christian List

6.30-8.00pm | Thursday 7 May 2009

Alumni Theatre, New Academic Building, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, LSE

Christian List, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, LSE

Collective decisions arise almost everywhere in contemporary societies. Examples are not only elections and referenda, but also decisions in legislatures, multi-member courts, organisations, clubs, firms, expert panels and monetary policy committees. Can we design an ideal democratic procedure for making such decisions? In this lecture, Christian List shows that, for all but the simplest collective decision problems, no decision procedure can simultaneously meet three intuitively appealing principles of democracy: the demands of ‘pluralism’, ‘majoritarianism’ and ‘rationality’. However, any two of the three principles can be met at once. Professor List calls this problem the ‘democratic trilemma’ and argues that different approaches to democratic decision-making can be viewed as different attempts to solve the trilemma. Thus the trilemma suggests a map of the logical space in which different approaches to democracy are located.