Models and Reality: The Curious Case of the Absent Abstention

  • Dan S. Felsenthal
  • Moshé Machover


We discuss two inter-related puzzling features of the literature on a priori voting power. First, the mathematical model used in virtually all this literature does not recognize abstention as an option distinct from both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ vote. Second, real-life decision rules of voting bodies — in particular the US legislature and the UN Security Council — are misrepresented as though they did not allow abstention as a tertium quid. We suggest that these misrepresentations may be examples of what philosophers of science call ‘theory-laden observation’.


Security Council Power Index Coalition Formation Vote Behaviour Vote Power 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan S. Felsenthal
    • 1
  • Moshé Machover
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyKing’s College, StrandLondonUK

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