Liberal political equality does not imply proportional representation

Stefan Wintein*, Conrad Heilmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In their article ‘Liberal political equality implies proportional representation’, which was published in Social Choice and Welfare 33(4):617–627 in 2009, Eliora van der Hout and Anthony J. McGann claim that any seat-allocation rule that satisfies certain ‘Liberal axioms’ produces results essentially equivalent to proportional representation. We show that their claim and its proof are wanting. Firstly, the Liberal axioms are only defined for seat-allocation rules that satisfy a further axiom, which we call Independence of Vote Realization (IVR). Secondly, the proportional rule is the only anonymous seat-allocation rule that satisfies IVR. Thirdly, the claim’s proof raises the suspicion that reformulating the Liberal axioms in order to save the claim won’t work. Fourthly, we vindicate this suspicion by providing a seat-allocation rule which satisfies reformulated Liberal axioms but which fails to produce results essentially equivalent to proportional representation. Thus, the attention that their claim received in the literature on normative democratic theory notwithstanding, van der Hout and McGann have not established that liberal political equality implies proportional representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-91
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to extend sincere thanks to the anonymous referees and editors of this journal for their invaluable comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


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