RE: DSM: Consensus v. Majority Vote

Joe Jackson (
Sun, 21 Jan 2001 02:02:25 -0500

Isn't the decision of a community whether to use consensus-based or
majority-based decision-making methods heavily influenced by the general
culture of the community? I think there are many cultures in the world, and
indeed within the U.S., that flourish utilizing consensus models to
legislate their communities; I think perhaps in those cases a "consensus
School Meeting" could be appropriate as long as the consensus model is truly
something unanimously desired.

If, on the other hand, consensus is not chosen unanimously, a bleak scenario
waits for those who prefer the majority rule: they can either participate
and subject themselves to unwanted pressure to step aside, they can find
themselves subjected to the pressure of being the holdout for whom
legislation has stopped, or they can choose not to participate.

It seems like much of the reason straight majority-rule democracy prevails
so often in practice is largely on its strength of the treatment of the
minority: to be free to disagree and do everything within the constraints of
the rules to defeat and/or mitigate the parts of a measure that the minority
finds indigestable, and find themselves not only in the moral right, but as
an active participant.

A complex issue.

-Joe Jackson

> How about making decisions in such a way that combines some features of
> both majority and consensus voting? One possible blending is
> described on
> this website:
> Essentially, it involves majority vote. However, those who voted in the
> minority were asked if they wanted to explain why they voted that way, and
> after further discussion there could be another vote. (take a look at the
> site for a more detailed description).
> What does everyone think about this?
> Dana
> At 07:01 PM 1/20/01 -0500, you wrote:
> >Isn't this comparing apples and oranges? Consensus and majority vote are
> >mechanisms for making decisions. One could have a JC (which
> simply stands
> >for Judicial Committee) which operated on a consensus model. The kind of
> >decisions which Anne was discussing were more 'School Meeting' type
> >decisions anyway.
> >
> >I am a fan of majority vote for making decisions in a Sudbury
> model school
> >environment. Since it is not really possible to 'step aside' from some
> >decisions, particularly any decision which established a rule or a
> >responsibility, consensus would, in my understanding, require
> the group to
> >arrive at every such decision unanimously. How could there not
> be pressure
> >on dissenters to agree with the majority, if only to end the meeting? I
> >prefer the vote. In either scenario the dissenter does not get
> their way,
> >but at least when it is decided by vote there is no additional
> requirement
> >for false agreement with the decision. This assumes that there
> is plenty of
> >time before a vote to propose amendments, speak one's mind etc.
> in a effort
> >to affect the outcome, which I believe is well established in
> meetings run
> >under Robert's Rules of Order.
> >
> >I also believe that consensus does not scale well, in other words, the
> >larger the group becomes, the harder consensus is to achieve.
> If one wants
> >a small school, that should not be an issue. However, if one
> wants a school
> >which may start small but would like to grow to, say SVS's 200
> students, it
> >makes sense to choose a governing structure which will work at that
> >enrollment level.
> >
> >Kristin Harkness
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: <>
> >To:
> ><>
> >Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 5:26 PM
> >Subject: Re: DSM: dancing
> >
> >>
> >>Anne,
> >>The democratic process in a Sud school is one person, one vote, and the
> >>majority rules. Concensus is not really democratic.
> Personally, I prefer
> >>concensus to J.C.. Although, J.C. has it merits, if needed. Concensus
> >>invites the relationship between people, whereas, J.C. is primarily used
> >for
> >>settling disputes and punishment.
> >>
> >

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