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'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.
- Michael Crichton
This statement applies exceedingly well for politics. It may be less apt for business or family situations. In business a leader may be responsible to a board of directors who should be more responsible than to submit to this kind of thing. In families a matron may well speak for the whole family, giving the explanation that everyone agrees with her whether it's true or not.
In politics, no one can be completely certain of anything until it has been brought to a vote. Even at voting time who voted for or against what is carefully recorded so that it may be used against an elected representative at a later date.
No matter what effect peer pressure may have within a political party, the leader may also have his way if he can make the claim of concensus within a party caucus, then insist on "party solidarity" at voting time. The leader may, in fact, have no knowledge of how many people favoured his initiative, nor would he care.
The leader not only wants to win, he wants to win everything by having votes go the way he chooses. He uses persuasion, coercion or the concensus argument to win the favour (vote support) of his own party members.
While vote rigging is no longer seen on a massive scale in well established democracies in the western world (hanging chads aside), claims of fraudulent voting and vote counting are common in developing countries and poor countries. The media may report such deviances, then, in more than half the countries of the world.
Can fraudulent voting procedures be called part of the concensus argument? It may if many party elected members, officials and members know about it but do nothing. The leader would claim the silence of these people on the basis of concensus and the need to prevent massive upset of the country if the leading party were found to be guilty of criminal activity--they would all lose their main source of legitimate income. Some would lose their feeling of being remotely associate with a source of power, the leader.
In any situation where a vote may change the direction a group will take in future, the concensus argument may sway undecided voters to vote in favour of the measure proposed by the leader. If possible, the group leader may claim concensus because little opposition has been heard to a proposal (maybe because those opposed wanted to wait for the vote to express their opinions without being harrassed by the leader in public before the vote) and he will avoid the vote entirely, thus depriving his silent opposition of their last minute weapon.
There is nothing genteel about politics. We understand that the force of command should be used in the military to ensure that the entire unit is working together. We don't expect it in politics where voting is done openly, supposedly above board.
We would prefer to believe that the power struggles within politics all happen in the back rooms and the final results work out best for the people.
The people of Argentina watched the concensus argument used repeatedly during the years the Perons were in power. The Perons led hallowed public lives while skimming much of the country's wealth for themselves. Once the Perons were gone, the Peronists that followed made a once substantial country into one of the Third World.
The people of the US watched it happen when President George W. Bush took his country into war in Iraq with evidence that was confusing at best, with no real threat against the US and without any consultation with voters. The country, Mr. Bush said, knows that invading Iraq is the right thing to do.
"The country" was Bush's use of the concensus argument whereby he had no need to consult with anyone dependable and without reliable evidence. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, even in his final speech as PM, claimed the invading Iraq was the right thing to do.
As everyone, it may safely be claimed, wants to do the right thing, it follows (according to the concensus argument) that if invading Iraq was the right thing to do then he and Bush made the right decision by doing it.
That's concensus, used in a democratic country without consulting parliament, Congress or the people, used to impoverish a country and kill many of its healthiest young adults. And to make the users of the concensus argument enormously wealthy.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to solve costly community and national problems and make the severity of many personal problems manageable at the same time.
Learn more at http://billallin.com