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Mind-bending Concepts—Consensus

The Mind-bender Concepts Series
The word "consensus" literally means to agree, but it does not mean simply to agree in the sense of accepting a contract or to agree on a price, but to agree in thought and belief. Consensus means to think or believe the same thing with regard to a position or policy, for example.

There are two very bad mistakes associated with the idea of consensus: 1. that what is right, or even true, can be established on the basis of how many people agree with it, and 2. that cooperation or interaction between people requires them to agree in their beliefs and views.

Nothing, of course, can be established as true on the basis of how many people believe it or agree with it. Yet, a great many deceptions are put over on that basis. The current best example is global warming. Neither can the best program, or method, or policy be determined by agreement. Many very bad company policies are established on the basis of agreement by members of some committee or board, rather than on the basis of objective reason and sound business principles.

The idea that people have to agree about what they think or believe before they can cooperate or effectively interact is simply not true. So long as two individual agree about activity they are engaged or cooperating in, all other disagreements are irrelevant. I do not have to agree that a companies chosen method of doing something is the best in order to work for that company doing things they way they are willing to pay me to do them, even if I think there are better ways. If I am a painter, for example, and someone wants to hire me to paint their house some horrible color, I do not have to agree it is a good color in order to do a good job painting their house. If I am a hunter and the best auto mechanic in town is an animal rights activist there is no reason I cannot have the best mechanic in town service my car or why he cannot perform that service.

The only agreement needed between individuals to cooperate or otherwise interact is the agreement not interfere in each others lives and to only cooperate or interact when it is to their mutual benefit.

—(01/19/11)