Theory and Decision

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 18–40 | Cite as

Even-chance lotteries in social choice theory

  • Peter C. Fishburn


This paper discusses aspects of the theory of social choice when a nonempty choice set is to be determined for each situation, which consists of a feasible set of alternatives and a preference order for each voter on the set of nonempty subsets of alternatives. The individual preference assumptions include ordering properties and averaging conditions, the latter of which are motivated by the interpretation that subset A is preferred to subset B if and only if the individual prefers an even-chance lottery over the basic alternatives in A to an even-chance lottery over the basic alternatives in B. Corresponding to this interpretation, a choice set with two or more alternatives is resolved by an even-chance lottery over these alternatives. Thus, from the traditional no-lottery social choice theory viewpoint, ties are resolved by even-chance lotteries on the tied alternatives. Compared to the approach which allows all lotteries to compete along with the basic alternatives, the present approach is a contraction which allows only even-chance lotteries.

After discussing individual preference axioms, the paper examines Pareto optimality for nonempty subsets of a feasible set in a social choice context with n voters. Aspects of simple-majority comparisons in the even-chance context follow, including an analysis of single-peaked preferences. The paper concludes with an Arrowian type impossibility theorem that is designed for the even-chance setting.


Average Condition Social Choice Present Approach Nonempty Subset Individual Preference 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter C. Fishburn
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Business Administration, The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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