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Richard McKelvey

Richard McKelvey (1944–2002) was a political scientist, specializing in mathematical theories of voting. He received his BS in Mathematics from Oberlin College, MA in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, and PhD in Political Science from University of Rochester. He was an Econometric Society fellow, and was the Edie and Lew Wasserman Professor of Political Science at the California Institute of Technology until his death, from cancer, in 2002.

McKelvey also wrote several articles about instability. One discussed the topic agenda manipulation. The McKelvey theorem indicates that almost every possible outcome can be realized through democratic decision-making, by smartly choosing the order or agenda in which decisions are taken. The desired result is established by ensuring that in each stage another composition of the majority determines the outcome of that part of the decision-making procedure. The person who designs the decision-making procedure needs to know the preferences of the participants to achieve his or her most desirable outcome by shifting majorities. It will be clear that this position where you can control the agenda is attractive, because this person can in principle implement his or her most favoured choice.

In 2007 John Aldrich (Duke), James Alt (Harvard) and Arthur Lupia (Michigan) published the edited volume Positive Changes in Political Science: The Legacy of Richard D. McKelvey’s Most Influential Writings with the University of Michigan Press. The volume contains reprints of several of Richard McKelvey's classic papers along with original essays by leading names in political science.


External links

  • press releasePositive Changes in Political Science
  • Bibliography and bios on Harvard site
  • National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir

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