Excessive Ambitions (II)

34 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2013

See all articles by Jon Elster

Jon Elster

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: January 25, 2013


Following an earlier article criticizing excessive uses of rational-choice modeling and statistical analyses in the social sciences, the present article argues that much of normative political theory, notably many theories of optimal institutional design, also suffer from various forms of overreaching. It is argued that both attempts to design democratic institutions that will track independently denied good outcomes and attempts to choose good democratic decision-makers are bound to fail. The article also presents a positive alternative, inspired by Jeremy Bentham's Political Tactics: institutional designers should reduce as much as possible the impact of self-interest, emotion, prejudice and cognitive bias on the decision-makers, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Comments on this paper can be found at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2207083 http://ssrn.com/abstract=2207106

Suggested Citation

Elster, Jon, Excessive Ambitions (II) (January 25, 2013). Capitalism and Society, Vol. 8, Issue 1, Article 1, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2207111

Jon Elster (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

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