Making Life Fairer, From Election Day to Your Birthday

Still miffed about the 2000 election? Or even the 1992 election? Steven Brams feels your pain—and has developed a system that could prevent similar voter aggravation in the future. As the NYU politics professor explains in his Big Think interview, "approval voting" would dampen the spoiler effect of candidates like Ralph Nader and Ross Perot, while benefiting centrist politicians over ideologues. If political fairness isn't your thing, Brams has also discovered a solution to a more mundane problem: divvying up birthday cake.

Brams's envy-free solution to the "n-person-cake cutting problem" involves game theory too dense to apply literally, but he still gets handed the knife and asked to do the honors at birthday parties. He's more than willing, too, to apply game theory concepts to other unusual realms, including the study of biblical literature. Citing the Samson and Delilah story as a favorite example, Brams argues that the characters in the Bible are, by and large, savvy strategists—"God included." If only American democracy were half as rational...

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Credit: Petr Kratochvil.
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