Public Choice

, Volume 159, Issue 3–4, pp 327–339 | Cite as

Albert Heckscher on collective decision-making

  • Eerik LagerspetzEmail author


Albert Heckscher (1857–1897) was a Danish lawyer. In his dissertation (Bidrag till Grundlæggelse af en Afstemningslære), accepted in 1892 at the University of Copenhagen, Heckscher dealt with numerous issues related to voting, especially those related to vote-aggregation in parliaments, courts and committees. He knew the works of Condorcet and Borda quite well, and analyzed many topics that would nowadays fall into the domain of the theory of social choice. These include Condorcet-cycles, differences between Condorcet-effective rules and the Borda rule, strategic voting, the influence of the voting order under the parliamentary voting rules, the likelihood of single-peaked preference profiles, and the problems created by non-separable preferences. Heckscher’s treatment of the Judgment Aggregation Paradox is especially noteworthy. Although Kornhauser and Sager (Yale Law Journal 96: 82–117, 1986) are usually mentioned as the inventors of this problem, Heckscher’s earlier treatment confirms the suspicion that the problem is not of recent origin. Numerous issues studied in the post-Arrowian theory of voting may already be found in Heckscher’s dissertation; some of them have become subjects of systematic study only in the twenty-first century. It is argued that Albert Heckscher, the unknown nineteenth century Danish lawyer, deserves a place in the pantheon of the theory of social choice alongside his better known contemporaries Charles Dodgson and E. J. Nanson.


Voting Decision-making Judgment aggregation paradox Social choice Albert Heckscher (1857–1897) 



The first version of this text was presented in the workshop ‘Power, Games, and Fairness’ at the University of Turku (Finland), 25–26th October 2013, organized by the Public Choice Research Centre. I thank all of the participants, especially Hannu Nurmi, Christian List and Maurice Salles, for their comments. I am also grateful to the editors of this journal and to the anonymous referee for their corrections and suggestions. My research has been supported by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and by the University of Turku.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Sciences and PhilosophyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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