Approximation limits of linear programs (beyond hierarchies)

with Gábor Braun, Samuel Fiorini, Sebastian Pokutta. FOCS 2012.



We develop a framework for approximation limits of polynomial-size linear programs from lower bounds on the nonnegative ranks of suitably defined matrices. This framework yields unconditional impossibility results that are applicable to any linear program as opposed to only programs generated by hierarchies. Using our framework, we prove that O(n1/2ε)O(n^{1/2-\varepsilon})-approximations for CLIQUE require linear programs of size 2nΩ(ε)2^{n^{\Omega(\varepsilon)}}. (This lower bound applies to linear programs using a certain encoding of CLIQUE as a linear optimization problem.) Moreover, we establish a similar result for approximations of semidefinite programs by linear programs.

Our main ingredient is a quantitative improvement of Razborov's rectangle corruption lemma for the high error regime, which gives strong lower bounds on the nonnegative rank of certain perturbations of the unique disjointness matrix.


  • strong relaxations
  • linear programming
  • lower bounds
  • approximation algorithms