William H. Riker

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William Harrison Riker (September 22, 1920 – June 26, 1993) was an American political scientist who applied game theory and mathematics to political science.


Liberalism Against Populism (1982)[edit]

Ch. 1 : The Connection Between the Theory of Social Choice and the Theory of Democracy

  • The question of whether particular goals are achievable by specified means (or indeed by any means at all) is an elementary and unavoidable question about any theory of justice.
  • All the elements of the democratic method are means to render voting practically effective and politically significant, and all the elements of the democratic ideals are moral extensions and elaborations of the features of the method that make voting work.
  • We can say that voting […] is at the heart of both the method and the ideal of democracy.

Quotes about Riker[edit]

  • As a rough description of the realities of the democratic process when it is applied to large-scale systems, and of the values of large-scale democracy, Riker's argument has much to be said for it (cf. chap. 16 below). However, his argument is subject to some grave difficulties. First, as critics have pointed out, his "liberal democracy" does not escape the difficulties of "populist democracy." If his criticisms of the ambiguity of social choice are correct, then simply because citizens vote to remove officials from office in an election does not provide adequate grounds for determining what the outcome means. Second, the extent to which voting cycles are a genuine problem in democratic associations is unclear; some social theorists have concluded that the importance Riker and others have attributed to voting cycles is exaggerated.
    • Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics (1989), Ch. 11 : Is There a Better Alternative?

External links[edit]

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