Equality of Power and Fair Public Decision-Making

29 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2019 Last revised: 18 Jul 2019

See all articles by Nicole Immorlica

Nicole Immorlica

Microsoft Research

Ben Plaut

Stanford University, School of Engineering, Management Science & Engineering, Students

E. Glen Weyl

Microsoft Research; RadicalxChange Foundation

Date Written: July 15, 2019


Ronald Dworkin's equality of resources, and the closely related concept of envy-freeness, are two of the fundamental ideas behind fair allocation of private goods. The appropriate analog to these concepts in a public decision-making environment is unclear, since all agents consume the same "bundle" of resources (though they may have different utilities for this bundle). Drawing inspiration from equality of resources and the Dworkin quote below, we propose that equality in public decision-making should allow each agent to cause equal cost to the rest of society, which we model as equal externality. We term this equality of power. The first challenge here is that the cost to the rest of society must be measured somehow, and it is generally impossible to elicit the scale of individual utilities (in the absence of monetary payments). Again drawing inspiration from foundational literature for private goods economies, we normalize each agent's utility so that every agent's marginal utility for additional power is the same. We show that for quadratic utilities, in the large market limit, there always exists an outcome that simultaneously satisfies equal power, equal marginal utility for additional power, and social welfare maximization with respect to the normalized utilities.

Keywords: social choice, envy-freeness, equality of power, quadratic voting

JEL Classification: D61, D63, D71, D82

Suggested Citation

Immorlica, Nicole and Plaut, Ben and Weyl, Eric Glen, Equality of Power and Fair Public Decision-Making (July 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3420450 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3420450

Nicole Immorlica

Microsoft Research ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 14th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Ben Plaut

Stanford University, School of Engineering, Management Science & Engineering, Students ( email )

473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305-9025
United States

Eric Glen Weyl (Contact Author)

Microsoft Research ( email )

6224 Lake Washington Blvd NE
Kirkland, WA 98033
United States
8579984513 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.glenweyl.com

RadicalxChange Foundation ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.radicalxchange.org

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics