Decision Costs and Welfare Effects of Democratic Voting Rules: an Experimental Analysis

  • 1 Department of Political Science, University of Cologne, P.O. Box 411020, 50870 Cologne, Germany


What impact do majority rule and unanimity rule have on welfare and decision costs? According to Buchanan and Tullock ([1962] 1999) the unanimity principle must be regarded as a democratic norm, because it guarantees Pareto-efficient welfare effects. We present experimental results from a public goods game, which demonstrate in contrast to this assumption that majority rule can produce greater welfare effects than unanimity rule. This result suggests a critical revision of theoretical approaches which narrow the legiti­macy of majority rule in this respect.

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World Political Science (WPS), sponsored by the International Political Science Association (IPSA), publishes translations of prize-winning articles nominated by prominent national political science associations and journals around the world.