How to Rig a Majority Vote

Do you think that a majority vote is always the fairest way to reach a consensus? Think again! In this Learn Liberty video, Professor Diana Thomas illustrates a paradoxical outcome that arises when people vote on three or more items – known as Condorcet’s Paradox – and proves that it is quite easy to manipulate the voting process in this scenario.

Condorcet’s paradox occurs when a vote is taken on a set of three options that nobody ranks in the same order. Even though a vote of two of the options may yield a consistent winner, it’s impossible to achieve a consistent outcome between all three choices. Usually, a majority vote is taken on only two options, so whoever gets to choose which two options are on the table (known as the agenda setter) has the power to dictate the winner of the vote.


  1. fred

    It would be nice to see more options on the table. Lysander Spooner was right….Choosing between 2 different masters still makes you a slave. 

  2. Matt Wavle

    So it’s not just who counts the vote, but in what order the run-offs are held.  They should all use their own money to buy whatever lunch they’d like to eat.  But if they are all riding in MY car, they we’re likely to go wherever I want to go, or where my potential client or boss wants to go.  
    — The hidden lesson here is to never vote on things that individual liberties.

  3. Daniel Pealer

    One more example proving that the democratic process is flawed and that more decisions should be left up to individuals

  4. RudyJJ

    I think that you guys are missing the point, this is not about peoples individual right to eat what they want. That is merely an analogy to help us understand a problem in plurality and ordinal voting systems. I know we are libertarians, but again this video is not about Individual rights. These voting videos on are generally about working in a plurality voting system, which really isn’t working. I feel like the problem in the USA is that we are working in an ineffective plurality system that leads to self reinforcing 2 party domination. I would like to introduce the Learn Liberty community to non plurality voting systems. This website has a lot of information on election methods.

  5. Greg Gauthier

    Voting is *never* about "getting" what the "majority wants". 

    In fact, it is rarely ever even about "the majority". Voting is about getting the preponderance of a motivated minority what it wants. The motivated minority is motivated by the lure of forcing others around them to conform to their own preferences, as acted out by a proxy, all without having to face any consequences for that. The vast majority of people are mentally and emotionally healthy enough to realize how disgusting and horrible that notion is, and rightly avoids the voting booth. 
  6. agavin2342

    The Condorcet Paradox is a very interesting concept, and seeing this in a simple way illustrates exactly what it means. Very interesting perspective.

  7. Ryan Boyd

    Well, more evidence that First Past the Post isn’t great. Yet, we will still do it because those in power want it. Got to love the Second Dimension of Power.

  8. RudyJJ

    FPTP is not the only voting system the US has used. Some cities like San Francisco have use Instant Runoff Voting. I don’t think it is completely impossible to get rid of FPTP. Then again IRV is still a voting system that leads to 2 party domination. It is possible that the politicians that got IRV to pass knew this and that is the only reason it passed. It is possible that they were indeed as naive as their constituents and IRV is an example of the US using a system that is not FPTP with the intention of having a better voting system. IRV is definitely not the best alternative voting system, but if it is able to pass maybe better voting systems like Range Voting could pass local legislation.

  9. Steve Davies

    So, the agenda setter controls the outcome, but its a probability, not a set outcome. Unless somebody catches on and swings enough votes to "unrig" the outcome.

  10. Kenny Legge

    Great breakdown. I am so excited to see all this information getting out to the masses.

  11. marty lamb

    Perhaps it is time to take stock of the "agenda setters" in Washington…. using this formula… it should be relatively easy…. by watching the pairups AND their order… in the primaries…to figure out JUST WHO the "agenda setters" are PUSHING… interesting….

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