The moral: it pays to gather many experts, but it doesn't pay to gather many fools.
Democracy can be viewed as a form of decision-making system by a very large committee of mediocre evaluators. From a cost-benefit perspective it's a rather big waste.
PLoS ONE 5(9): e12642. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012642
The Calculus of Committee Composition
Eric Libby, Leon Glass
Modern institutions face the recurring dilemma of designing accurate evaluation procedures in settings as diverse as academic selection committees, social policies, elections, and figure skating competitions. In particular, it is essential to determine both the number of evaluators and the method for combining their judgments. Previous work has focused on the latter issue, uncovering paradoxes that underscore the inherent difficulties. Yet the number of judges is an important consideration that is intimately connected with the methodology and the success of the evaluation. We address the question of the number of judges through a cost analysis that incorporates the accuracy of the evaluation method, the cost per judge, and the cost of an error in decision. We associate the optimal number of judges with the lowest cost and determine the optimal number of judges in several different scenarios. Through analytical and numerical studies, we show how the optimal number depends on the evaluation rule, the accuracy of the judges, the (cost per judge)/(cost per error) ratio. Paradoxically, we find that for a panel of judges of equal accuracy, the optimal panel size may be greater for judges with higher accuracy than for judges with lower accuracy. The development of any evaluation procedure requires knowledge about the accuracy of evaluation methods, the costs of judges, and the costs of errors. By determining the optimal number of judges, we highlight important connections between these quantities and uncover a paradox that we show to be a general feature of evaluation procedures. Ultimately, our work provides policy-makers with a simple and novel method to optimize evaluation procedures.