Wisdom of the Crowd? Information Aggregation in Representative Democracy

29 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2017 Last revised: 14 Nov 2018

See all articles by Carlo Prato

Carlo Prato

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: November 14, 2018

Abstract

In representative democracy, voters elect candidates who strategically propose policies. In a common value environment with imperfectly informed voters and candidates, we establish that information aggregation can be unfeasible even when a large electorate presented with exogenous options would almost always select the correct policy. In fact, the possibility of information aggregation encourages candidates' conformism and stifles the competition among ideas. As a result, we uncover circumstances under which a single voter can outperform a large electorate in term of policy outcomes, thereby providing an important qualification to the existing epistemic defense of democracy. Neither liberalizing access to candidacy nor introducing additional frictions in voters' preferences or information guarantees feasible information aggregation. Thus, the political failure we uncover is due to the intermediation by candidates---that is, the nature of representative democracy.

Keywords: political failure, representation, information aggregation, intermediation

JEL Classification: D70, D72, D82

Suggested Citation

Prato, Carlo and Wolton, Stephane, Wisdom of the Crowd? Information Aggregation in Representative Democracy (November 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2995012 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2995012

Carlo Prato (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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