Social choice theory

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Social choice theory or social choice is a theoretical framework for analysis of combining individual opinions, preferences, interests, or welfares to reach a collective decision or social welfare in some sense.[1] Whereas choice theory is concerned with individuals making choices based on their preferences, social choice theory is concerned with how to translate the preferences of individuals into the preferences of a group. A non-theoretical example of a collective decision is enacting a law or set of laws under a constitution. Another example is voting, where individual preferences over candidates are collected to elect a person that best represents the group's preferences.[2]

Social choice blends elements of welfare economics and public choice theory. It is methodologically individualistic, in that it aggregates preferences and behaviors of individual members of society. Using elements of formal logic for generality, analysis proceeds from a set of seemingly reasonable axioms of social choice to form a social welfare function (or constitution).[3] Results uncovered the logical incompatibility of various axioms, as in Arrow's theorem, revealing an aggregation problem and suggesting reformulation or theoretical triage in dropping some axiom(s).[1]