Back in prehistoric times, mankind came together in groups and formed consensus usually to verify the best way to understand or do something. It took over 30,000 years of pre-historic consensus before slightly sophisticated forms of civilization started to emerge. Only in the past 10,000 years is there much of a record of basic civilization . It has only been in the last 150 years that Mankind actually broke away from the old consensus ideas that were the norm for more than 5000 years. The idea of a consensus is that a group of people, working out a problem together, like a court room jury or a seminar can together be more certain about getting the right answer to a problem by voting to arbitrarily come to conclusions of truth. There are often aggressive leaders who push the group into making the consensus. The idea is that most people can’t be wrong. It is as dumb as the idea that the more brains you have in a room the smarter the room becomes. Anyone who has ever been to college and had the sad opportunity to observe a class taught with what is called platonic method know how idiotic it is for knowledgeable professors to collect ignorant student consensus on issues when he knows the answer he is looking for is not in the texts or text books being studied. The platonic method teachers never really figured out how stupid their method is. It is probably because they are too lazy to lecture?
The main kind of pre-historic consensus would have been issues like if it were safe to leave the cave or not at a given time and circumstances such has having cold weather and a saber tooth tiger pacing back and forth outside the cave. Often times the consensus making would lead to the totally wrong decision of sending someone out side the cave at the wrong time. May a pre-historic fool probably did leave the cave at the wrong time just because everyone else in the tribe nodded their heads that it was probably safe enough to go out. The Ancient Athenians were big on making consensus and their city state did not survive as many generations as it could have otherwise. Society can amplify the absolutely dumbest ideas by holding them as true by consensus. Anyone who would argue with this notion is probably part of some consensus against it.
Often times it is the complete maverick who has no interest or consideration of any consensus that may come about and he gets everything right everyone else gets wrong. One problem with consensus is that the politics of reaching a consensus are not necessarily honest. There is competition to lead any group and strangely some of the people least able to produce goods or services seem to be the best at rising to the top of politics. Some pecking orders among humans are set by the biggest and strongest taking control of the group and enforcing consensus with actual force. The Chinese emperor Chen wanted the consensus that not only was he a God among men but that he was destined to be immortal. The punishment for not believing in that consensus was death or enslavement building the first great wall of china. Consensus in Ancient Rome was that drinking out of lead cups and piping water into cities with lead containment structures was good for the health of the people. Consensus in 1060 France was that women with birth marks were marked by the devil. Consensus science in 2009 is that Al Gore can predict the planet’s weather.
Consensus is often a really stupid way to go because that is why we have rush hour traffic. The consensus is that if one wants to get home in time for prime time television, one should leave work at one particular time, by consensus. Most people think they know the best time to leave a little earlier as if by consensus and the traffic jam is one big snarl. Consensus is why human and animal sacrifice was the corner stone of human civilization for over 4000 years. Consensus was that the Sun orbited the earth and that the earth was flat. It does not take much for a consensus to be absolutely totally wrong.
The idea that a jury can necessarily reach a better decision than any single person with in it’s ranks is patently absurd. The tort attorneys have turned it into an art form of Junk Science nation wide. The sad thing about the Madoff Ponzi scheme is that it was by a from of consensus that a lot of Rich Palm Beach Country Club people got sucked in. It started with the consensus that Madoff was making money for others in a big way and the others wanted to join in. It is absolutely how amazingly stupid a consensus can be and here we go again on the national economic level in the new Obama administration . Picking up the Wall Street Journal on 1-23-2009 we already see the new Secretary of the Treasury blasting China for having it’s currency undervalued against the dollar. It is the exact same stupid mistake the Bush Administration made with disastrous consequences. There is no way to get US trade goods to move by Strong arming the customers to buy! The dollar is strong you want the foreign customers to respect it and not trash it. The academic consensus the new secretary of the treasury is working under is dead wrong and stupid. Here is why. Suppose you walk into Bloomingdales or Macys and the Store manager comes out and says welcome to our store you had better buy something now or else–that is really good business! It never happened to me but I can hardly afford to shop at most department stores.
More consensus mistakes. Over many years I have watched value and growth stock financial manager’s blurt out their consensus about great stocks to own . One that has almost never gotten off their prime list is Pfizer, the giant American drug manufacturer famous for Viagra, The problem is that the more I saw the consensus that Pfizer was this great value and growth investment was the sad fact that the stock always seemed to trend lower and lower in price. The rule here is never buy what the experts are selling? It is not alway a great rule to follow but one has to take it into consideration. A better rule is to be careful of following the consensus because when the consensus is wrong it is likely to become a bigger bubble. This is why listening to Jim Rogers selling the end of the UK is both a suspect selling pitch by a right on the edge short seller or the best bit of maverick advice there was to listen to at the time. Rogers definitely represents a market consensus of lot of traders. He is one of the guys who comes out on television to attempt to influence the next market trend or swing. End of the UK? End of Sterling? It seems to me the Brits have survived worst financial times than these. Remember London was practically bombed to the ground. The country was dead broke at times and the pound survived. I am not sure I see a consensus there . I remember George Soros getting blamed for destroying the pound the last time it really took a dive. Was it the Brits or the French who Put Soros on trial or wanted to?
The biggest economic consensus is coming from the same place the global warming consensus is coming from and it is probably the most dangerous economic consensus in recent memory. Maybe not since the consensus in Germany and Russia that Hitler and Stalin could take over the entire world, respectively has there been a popular consensus as dangerous to the future as the idea that carbon dioxide needs to be regulated as an extreme pollutant. There is plenty of good scientific decent outside of the consensus and worst of all there is the actual geological record history of the earth that shows much more extreme global climate change events than seem to be occurring now with absolutely no human activity to blame. Just because some one makes assumptions and runs them though a super computer does not prove their scientific conclusions are correct. It was easier for Al Gore to win a Nobel peace prize in politicking against global warming than for the scientists claiming it to get the prize before Gore did.
The theory that lemmings just go over the cliff together because they are lemmings should take into consideration that the idea of consensus is about feeling safe in the group, It is one reason people tailgate on the freeway. People live in packs. The consensus that President Obama offers a lot of hope will be tested. Already It looks like there is too much political consensus and that he already needs some new advisor’s . Lawyers go to school to learn how to decipher the law with endless references to precedent. That is the same thing as a historical consensus and is not really problem solving. It does work in court but our courts are a primitive throwback to medieval European justice which included trial by ordeal. Not much has changed in the court room in over 2000 years. The legal system is the worst possible consensus way to reform the US health care system under those circumstances. The Economic implications are just as bad. The consensus is that higher taxes need to be collected to make health care universal. Only a few voices are saying the opposite way outside of the consensus. The best quickest way to make the US health care system more effective and cheaper is cut the taxes that every service provider has to pay by making health care a tax free necessity the same way sales tax states exempt necessities like food from the tax. The consensus is painlessly not aware that when you get your doctor bill the doctor is going to try his hardest to pass on his income tax to the patients. The doctor’s income may go down if the state is paying his future salary but it is very likely that he is not going to be as willing to work as hard if the government pays him half as much and takes even higher taxes out of his pay to pay for your government financed health care. Some times a consensus just gives you a smell a rat nasal sensation.
There are things government can do to make health care more readily available for everyone those ideas are not listed in the general consensus. One is for the government to expand VA hospital facilities . An other is limit the kind of lawsuits Senator John Edwards was famous for. Other ideas is to cut out government waste in some areas and put the money into government hospital building programs instead. Anyone live in a city where the government paid to build a stadium for your local sports team to keep them from moving out of town instead of paying for a hospital for the poor? Lots of us do.
Really want to solve a problem? Then ignore the consensus even when it seems to be right. Beware of the consensus from Wall Street and from the most flattering statements about the federal reserve chief. Remember every single federal reserve chief, say the media stories, saved us from economic despair and yet we find out that the federal reserve was in existence before the great depression too. The federal reserve head nodding of consent is one of the strangest phenomena among financial media journalists. Reminds me of a pet dog always giving his master that look of love before feeding time. It seems the real results are the same sort of boom and bust that we experienced before the federal reserve came about except that now we have a circus master pretending to control the pattern.