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The Optimal Rule of Decision-making for Areopagus: Public Voting or Apparent Consens?

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The Optimal Rule of Decision-making for Areopagus: Public Voting or Apparent Consens?

La sagesse collective : principes et mécanismes

Colloque des 22-23 mai 2008, organisé par l'Institut du Monde Contemporain du Collège de France, sous la direction du Professeur Jon Elster.

Intervention de Philippe Urfalino.
Areopagus, as are constitutional courts and committees of experts, are expected to reach decisions which must be justified by reasons. Their members are not elected but appointed with a reference to their specific competence. With regard to the nature of the decisions they make and the intellectual quality of their members, areopagus are strongly associated with an idea of a certain kind of wisdom. One of the questions areopagus are regularly confronted with, is : “what rules of collective decision-making warrant that a gathering of wise persons will indeed result in a wise collective decision” ? It appears that the answer is not always the same: in some cases, they opt for public voting with the rule of majority, and in other cases for what I call decision by apparent consensus (when a proposition receives no more objection.

Using mainly the examples from, advice committees at the FDA for pharmaceutical drugs and of their equivalent committees at the French Agency for Medical Drugs, the paper will raise three main questions:
How has the problem of the quality of the collective decisions been conceived and thought in the history of these committees?
What kind of rules and what justifications of these rules have been adopted?



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