Collective Wisdom and Institutional Design

31 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2008 Last revised: 5 Sep 2008

Date Written: August 26, 2008


What is collective wisdom, and how can institutions be designed to generate and exploit it? This essay argues for a reductionist conception of collective wisdom as collective epistemic accuracy, and cashes out that conception at the level of institutional design. Assuming that the social goal is to maximize the epistemic quality of the laws, I argue for a shift of constitutional lawmaking authority from courts to Congress and the executive, for the appointment of nonlawyers to the Supreme Court, and for an expansion of Congress' membership. I also outline the trade offs between epistemic and nonepistemic values, such as the costs of decision making, the aggregation of preferences, and the perceived legitimacy of the legal system.

Suggested Citation

Vermeule, Adrian, Collective Wisdom and Institutional Design (August 26, 2008). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-22, Available at SSRN: or

Adrian Vermeule (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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