Condorcet’s Jury Theorem and the Optimum Number of Voters

Many political theorists and philosophers use Condorcet's Jury Theorem to defend democracy. This article illustrates an uncomfortable implication of Condorcet's Jury Theorem. Realistically, when the conditions of Condorcet's Jury Theorem hold, even in very high stakes elections, having more than 100,000 citizens vote does no significant good in securing good political outcomes. On the Condorcet model, unless voters enjoy voting, or unless they produce some other value by voting, then the cost to most voters of voting exceeds the expected epistemic benefits to the common good of their casting a vote. Anyone who is committed to democracy on the basis of the Jury Theorem ought also to hold that widespread voting is wasteful, at least unless he or she can provide some further justification of mass democratic participation.

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Published in: Politics
2011 31 Pages 55-62

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