Preferences Are Not Transitive

This is the most pointless, nerdy thing imaginable, but I’m going to post it anyway. As you may know, Britain has basically three options when it comes to Brexit:

  • Remain: cancel the whole thing and stay in the EU.
  • May Deal: go ahead with Brexit on the terms negotiated by prime minister Theresa May.
  • No Deal: exit the EU with no deal at all in place.

A recent poll asked the British public what they thought about each of these options. Here’s how they responded:

Take a careful look at this:

  • Remain is preferred to the May Deal.
  • The May Deal is preferred to No Deal
  • But No Deal is preferred to Remain.

This is an example of a hoary old political science result: namely that preferences are not transitive. Even if you prefer A to B, and B to C, you might still prefer C to A. However, real-life examples of this are hard to find, and textbooks often have to resort to obviously clunky, made-up examples. But this one is real! Textbook authors everywhere will be eternally grateful to the British public for this.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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