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The thing that is wrong with consensus[edit]

In theory consensus is awesome, no "tyranny of the majority", noone feels neglected and that his or her opinion wasn't heard. In pratice it is an unattainable dream. Never in history before has it worked, and I doubt that it ever will. But first, let us define what consensus is. Consensus, to me, is a form of decision making in which every decision is approved by all involved parties. Mind you! Not that there is noone that object, but that everyone agrees. The distinction is important because if a decision is taken behind sealed doors or if some of the involved parties doesn't get a chance to object then there can never be a chance for consensus.

Now someone will object to my bold statement that consensus decision making doesn't work by saying something along the lines "but look! There it worked!". In smaller groups consensus "work" because those groups doesn't require a formal decision making system at all. They don't really take decisions they just "do" things. But if the question to be resolved is who should clean the toilets, I'll guarantee you that it wont lead to a consensus. In fact, groups like these operates more like small dictatorship where the person with the most knowledge or leadership karma makes all the decisions. While not everyone will agree with every decision, no decision will be taken without first being approved by him or her.

That leads us straight on to why consensus is not only a bad way to make decisions but is also very dangerous to the community taking them. To maintain the self-image that decisions have a consensus backing opposition must be silenced. Now ofcourse there shouldn't be any disagreement to begin with but I maintain that avoiding disagreement is virtually impossible. First of all, it requires everyone to think rationally and logically in every decision. That is not possible. Because noone reads a message without spending atleast an equal amount of thought on the sender of the message as at the message itself. For example, if person A says message B, my response to that message will be as much based on my thought of the actual message as my thought of that person. As long as every community has a person attached to the message pure rational and logical thinking is not possible. And my opinion of person A is formed based on his or hers previous messages and what kind of responses those messages has generated from other persons and my opinions of them are and so on.

It's called politics. Most political systems are based on parties which acts as the senders of the messages. They simplify the decision making process for us so that we can associate ourselves with the sender we sympatize with instead of the message. Then we hope that the message will be right.

But back to why consensus is dangerous. As I said, it requires people to be totally free of prejudices. If for example fifty rationally thinking strangers, all white skinned, blonde, blue eyed males, they would concevably be able to reach a consensus. Because they have no relations to each other. Nothing to gain or nothing to lose.

Relations are bad when it comes to decisions. They keep two friends from disagreeing and they keep two enemies from agreeing. The decisions and the people's opinions become alot more than just opinions. If someone expresses an opinion it may generate far greater negative consequences for the persons than what the decision in itself would have made. People are concerned about what people think about them. Therefore dissident is just what it is called - dissident. A person expressing to many dissident opinions soon become a dissident person. Noone ofcourse wants to become a dissident as a dissident is not a member of the group but an outcast, frozen out, standing outside the door. This is because of prejudice, memory and all that stuff. Completely normal human behavour.

So what does the dissident do? Well, either he or she disappears or the person creates a faction. A large bloc of dissidents is a faction. And when a faction is created consensus decisions just wont happen because the factions will work against each other. That's why dissidents are dangerous and dissident opinion must be supressed.

Dissidents themselves will supress their own opinions to satisfy what is seen as the will of the collective, while it more often is just the will of the most influential persons of the collective. Yes sooner or later an "alpha male/female" will become the leader of the group. All decisions that is taken will be taken by him or her - dictatorship.

Sometimes the dissidents will try to stay in the community. People that does that are those who view relations in a whole different way than the rest of the community. For them it is not a "community" but rather a playground of sorts. They might be very active and very serious about themselves and their work in the group but they do not "feel" the responses they get from their peers as most other people do. Such persons can evolve to a great problem for the group and has to be solved in a forcibly manner. Typically with exclusions.

About "rough consensus". It acknowledges that it is impossible to make everyone think exactly the same. It's a step in the right direction. But it does it for the wrong reasons, it assumes that the involved people can be divided in two cathegories - those thinking rationaly and those not thinking rationaly. Ofcourse it is just another way to try to create an image of consensus while there is none. The rational people are always representing the majority point of view.

To summarize, in a point by point form:

  • Consensus lead to dictatorship.
  • Consensus eliminates dissident
  • opintions Consensus could work, if the orginators of the
 opinions isn't known.

An alternative to consensus[edit]

I don't have so many ideas in this area really. But I think instead of consensus a, a system that builds on factional democracy would work better. The fear that keeps minority opinions away in consensus is the fear that noone wants to be alone. Often the dissidenter thinks he or she is the only one that has that opinion, that is rarely the case. Therefore a system which allows the dissidenter to maintain a feel of unity is needed. Call them parties if you want but just something to keep that fear from totally distorting the result of decisions.