Calculus of Dissent

This entry is concerned with the specific problem of decision making in a contractarian constitutional democracy—based on unanimous consent over the rules—where all individuals have different preferences on matters of public goods. Fundamental to this predicament is the presumption that conflicts arise from the very circumstance that choice is public and decision makers’ preferences are unable to generate either consensual choices or majoritarian choices, which may be called the premise of democracy. When differences in preferences cannot be aggregated through voting, it is evident that the result is not consent over public goods but dissent even in the simplest three-individual setting.

One might think that with heterogeneous preferences, there is no room for democracy. This is a simple but fallacious conclusion that would not withstand critical ...

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