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Beisbart, Claus; Bovens, Luc; Hartmann, Stephan (December 2005): A Utilitarian Assessment of Alternative Decision Rules in the Council of Ministers. In: European Union Politics, Vol. 6, No. 4: pp. 395-418


We develop a utilitarian framework to assess different decision rules for the European Council of Ministers. The proposals to be decided on are conceptualized as utility vectors and a probability distribution is assumed over the utilities. We first show what decision rules yield the highest expected utilities for different means of the probability distribution. For proposals with high mean utility, simple benchmark rules (such as majority voting with proportional weights) tend to outperform rules that have been proposed in the political arena. For proposals with low mean utility, it is the other way round. We then compare the expected utilities for smaller and larger countries and look for Pareto-dominance relations. Finally, we provide an extension of the model, discuss its restrictions, and compare our approach with assessments of decision rules that are based on the Penrose measure of voting power.