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In praise of manipulation

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Many theorists believe that the manipulation of voting procedures is a serious problem. Accordingly, much of social choice theory examines the conditions under which strategy proofness can be ensured, and what kind of procedures do a better job of preventing manipulation. In this paper we argue that democrats should not be worried about manipulation. Two arguments against manipulation are examined. First we discuss the ‘sincerity argument’, according to which manipulation should be rejected because it displays a form of insincere behaviour. We argue however that a distinction can be made between sincere and non-sincere manipulation and we show that a familiar class of social choice functions is immune to insincere manipulation. We then discuss the ‘transparency’ argument against manipulation. We argue that (sincere or insincere) manipulation may indeed lead to non-transparency of the decision making process, but that, from a democratic perspective, such non-transparency is often a virtue rather than a vice.

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