A Theorem on Preference Aggregation


I present a general theorem on preference aggregation. This theorem implies, as corollaries, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, Wilson's extension of Arrow's to non-Paretian aggregation rules, the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem and Sen's result on the Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal. The theorem shows that these classical results are not only similar, but actually share a common root. The theorem expresses a simple but deep fact that transcends each of its particular applications: it expresses the tension between decentralizing the choice of aggregate into partial choices based on preferences over pairs of alternatives, and the need for some coordination in these decisions, so as to avoid contradictory recommendations.