British Journal of Political Science

In Praise of Manipulation

a1 Government Department, London School of Economics and Political Science
a2 Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen

Article author query
dowding k   [Google Scholar] 
van hees m   [Google Scholar] 


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. This article argues that democrats should not be worried about manipulation. Two arguments against manipulation are examined: first, the ‘sincerity argument’, according to which manipulation should be rejected because it displays a form of insincere behaviour. This article distinguishes between sincere and non-sincere manipulation and shows that a familiar class of social choice functions is immune to insincere manipulation. Secondly, the ‘transparency’ argument against manipulation is discussed and it is argued 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.

(Published Online December 7 2007)


a The authors would like to thank Nick Baigent, Anne Gelling, Aki Lehtinen, Hugh Ward and the Journal's anonymous referees for their comments.