Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2002 - Mathematics - 287 pages
From the Impossibility of a perfectly democratic vote to the creation of a model that clarifies affirmative action debates, law professor and math enthusiast Michael Meyerson uses mathematics to open a fresh, exciting window onto American public life.

In thoroughly accessible and entertaining terms, Meyerson applies mathematical concepts of infinity to the abortion debate; shows how the "prisoner's dilemma" from game theory relates to interstate commerce disputes; provides a surprising arithmetical justification of the Electoral College; and uses topology to understand the shape of American government and Godel's incompleteness theorem to shed new light on metaconstitutional problems, such as whether we need to appoint independent prosecutors to investigate presidential wrongdoing.

With admirable clarity, Meyerson shows us how math, properly understood, is not about reducing life to numbers and black-and-white solutions but instead offers a mind-expanding perspective on the complexities of our world.

 

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Contents

Acknowledgments
9
Preface
11
The Ugliest Number in the Constitution
15
Logic Healthy and III
21
Majority Rules
46
The Positive Value of Consensus
69
The First Veto
80
What Does Equality Equal?
89
Infinity and the Constitution
146
The Incomplete Constitution
160
Constitutional Chaos
183
The Mathematics of Limits
207
The Limits of Mathematics
215
Notes
221
Permissions
275
Index
275

Game Theory and the Constitution
107
Multidimensional Thinking
123

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About the author (2002)

Michael Meyerson is professor of law and Piper & Marbury Faculty Fellow at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in Columbia, Maryland.

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