Conflict Resolution
From: Mark & Kathy Bishop (
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 22:19:58 -0600
>?However consensus has a much higher threshold; %100 versus %51
>for a major voting process. This requires not only a higher of trust, but a
higher degree of
>common interest, commitment, and understanding of the process, for
>consensus to work.  In a majority voting system, you can have almost
>half (or more) the participants not really understanding what they are
>doing, and still have the process work (this is why Congress and
>legislatures continue to function).

Is it true that in a simple majority vote, greater than 50% must vote in favor.
The rest can abstain or vote against?  In consensus it takes as little as one
person in favor if the rest step aside and allow consensus.  This seems like a
lower ?threshold?.

After thinking about it a little longer, I am beginning to think that there is a
difference in the level of trust required of individuals in the group using
majority vote compared to thoes using consensus.  I trust a majority vote
process less than a consensus process.  If I am in a room with strangers that I
don?t trust, I would prefer a consensus process over a majority vote.  ?Hey, I
don?t know what secret alliances are among these strangers, I don?t know who
knows who.  Maybe I am the minority here.?  Majority vote process demands that
each individual trust that the majority is right.

You have an interesting parenthetical.  Are you saying that with the current
majority vote process Congress still functions even though some don?t understand
what they are doing?  If we have a dictatorship, then none of them need to know
what they are doing.  I trust a dictatorship even less.  Yes, consensus process
expects more from those participating.

>?However, it is important that there is a fallback mechanism to conventional
democracy; if there is any chance that >consensus could fail.  The reason is,
that if
>consensus fails, it fails miserably.  What happens when a failed
>concensus is perpetuated, you end up with behind the scenes
>(self-appointed and unaccountable) leaders taking over, or staganation
>of the group, or spintering and effective dissolution. The results of
>a failed consensus is worse than traditional democracy.

Behind the scenes leadership? Stagnation? Splintering?  Are you sure you aren?t
describing our Congress? I think a majority vote process encourages splintering
and behind-the-scenes lobbying for votes. Consensus discourages this.
A failed process, no matter which, encourages either re-evaluating the group's
process or anarchy.

A majority vote is quicker in making a decision but slower at execution because
it takes time to educate the uninformed and enforce the decision on the
unwilling.  Consensus decisions come slower but execution is quick and has full

Having a fall back to a majority vote from a consensus sounded good to me until
I got into the details of transitioning from consensus to majority vote.
Blocked consensus cannot be a trigger to ?fall back? because blocked consensus
is a very very important part of consensus.  Undermining the ability to block
consensus in turn undermines the consensus process.  Is it consensus for the
group to decide to vote around the person blocking a consensus that is counter
to the agreed principals of the group?

The INTENT behind blocked consensus may be counter to the principals of the
group.  The REASONING behind the blocked consensus may be at fault.  If there is
a vulnerablity of consensus to fail, this is it.  However, protecting against
this vulnerability to self-interests and unreasonableness does not require
falling back to a majority vote on a proposal blocked by consensus.  I think
that having a vote (perhaps only 25%) on legitimacy of  intent and soundness of
reason behind a blocked consensus seems to be the right way to go to me.  I
don?t see this as a switch from consensus of a proposal to majority vote of a

Mark Bishop
Acorn Creek Community

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