Consocratic Theory and the ideas for the PLAN FOR THE PLANET Book Series arose while Ted Wells was working with his wife, Helen, as American Peace Corps volunteers helping a few dozen uneducated but very intelligent Amhara farmers clear dense jungle and start a new town in an extremely remote part of southern Ethiopia back in the late 1960s. The land had been personally given to them by the elderly, god-like Emperor, Haile Selassie, also an Amhara.
It was where Ted learned first hand that sometimes peaceful selfless good intentions can have a serious downside to them, generating anger and hate between people rather than love and understanding.
(See the book called “The Old Man in the Bag and Other True Stories of Good Intentions included on this website in the “PLAN FOR THE PLANET” Book Series, which chronicles this story. A pdf of this book can be downloaded for free there.)
In rural Ethiopia, everyone still remained in control of most of their own life choices. In the Western world, almost half of every group, that is, everyone in the minority, have virtually no say at all over many significant aspects of theirs.
In their little village, there were no majority votes taken to make community decisions. The villagers did not base their decisions just on the financial costs of the choices they faced. They did not use questionnaires to find out what the majority thought and then make decisions that knowingly left out half of their group.
They intuitively recognized that despite their differences, whatever the cost, they needed the support of everyone to live together in peace. They needed to reach a consensus among themselves to survive.
The argument against using consensus decision-making in our own “civilized” institutions has always been the problem of scale. In modern societies there are just too many of us to be able to resort to such “primitive” idealistic practices.
Democracies force us to turn all decisions into black and white choices even though life is not really like that. Democracies make decision-making easy by polarizing debate and creating winners and losers. They sometimes get it right, but more often than not they create resentment, anger and hate among those in the minority who lose out, and a strong elation of success among the majority, when neither is deserved.
What Ted learned from his experiences in Africa was that such polarized responses are actually signs of paternalism between equals. Paternalism between father and son or teacher and student can generate love and understanding, but paternalism between two equals, when the only difference between them is wealth, power or respect, can generate anger and hate, or even violence, terrorism and war.
Admittedly, consensus decision-making does have two serious drawbacks associated with it. One is that it simply doesn’t work in large groups. The other is that the process can be easily hijacked by narcissistic participants.
However, just imagine if these two problems could be resolved and this “primitive” form of decision-making peacefully integrated into our current democratic forms of government? What a different world we might live in.
This, in fact, is the premise behind this website and Ted’s books.
What led him to use the particular arrangement of ideas that currently form “Consocratic Theory” is described in more detail in the first 9 Chapters or Part A of his book “Power, Chaos or Consensus?’, and the major interrelated global problems that all of humanity needs to face sooner rather than later are described in more detail in Chapters 10 through 15 in Part B of his book.
Part C contains 3 chapters describing the principles and structural details of what an upgraded Democracy based on Consensus Decision-making, might look like. Finally, the last two chapters, Chapters 19 and 20 in part D, set out the “Consocratic Plan” itself; Chapter 19 details the 5 steps people might take to see this plan introduced as an amendment to the constitution of their own existing democracies.
The second chapter in Part D contains the plan itself; the detailed goals, principles, rights, responsibilities and rules, which would establish a Consocracy and allow people to equitably govern themselves in peace and with social justice in both a market economy and a sustainable environment.
The “Consocratic Plan” has come out looking something like a cross between the planning ordinances of a large city and the constitution of a small country. Such detail should not be surprising. Over the last few millennia, many others have tried to come up with idealized philosophies and religions on how we all might live together in peace, but all have been pretty vague on the details.
As a consequence, they have all been subjected to widespread misinterpretation and abuse. Some would even say their abuse has significantly contributed to our current global strife and disharmony rather than achieved what their original proponents had intended.
One of the more recent semi-detailed attempts to create a comprehensive system to manage human affairs was back in 1787 when members of the Constitutional Convention sat down in Philadelphia to draft the US Constitution.
What they came up with was brilliant for its day, and has since been copied around the world many times. However, it may be time to consider making some revisions to the general format of democratic decision-making given the substantially more crowded current state of our planet and the many wildly divergent, seriously complex and environmentally destructive market driven cultures that now inhabit it.
A potentially controversial but key feature of Consocratic Theory is that all people in a Consocracy would have to have a globally unique passport-like identification number, and be associated with a globally unique “Site”. Starting from this position, all public governance decisions would be made by the consensus of the representatives of any group of “sites” affected by any change which occurs or is planned within their jurisdiction.
Groups containing more than thirty representatives or involving changes to the environment outside the sites represented by that group would have to select by consensus one of their members to form a second level of decision making. If that second level contained more than thirty representatives or if it had to consider changes to the environment outside the sites represented by that level, a third level of representatives chosen by consensus would have to be created. Group decisions would be made by the lowest level of representatives that competely contained the effects of any existing or proposed change.
The four maps below illustrate how the first three levels of “Structured Consensus Decision-Making” Groups might be formed, starting with what constitutes a “Site”, then what “Neighborhood”, “Village” and “Town” levels might look like.
The diagram below schematically shows the organizational similarity of the various levels of decision-making groups. Every black circle in the diagram is a decision-making group of representatives.
The size of the black circle identifies the number of people (and number of sites) it represents; the larger the circle, the more people (and sites) represented. Each black circle or decision-making group is set out and operated in the same way as every other black circle or group. The large black circle in the middle of the diagram is simply a detailed look at one of the decision-making groups on level 3. All groups on all levels actually look and operate like this.
As shown in the large detailed circle in the middle of the diagram, every circle (or decision-making group) is split into 6 sections. Five of the sections are labeled “Personal”, “Economic”, “Equity”, “Community” and “Environmental”, (PEECE) for the 5 types of change each group decision must consider, and each of these sections contains two shaded and labeled ovals.
One of the 6 sections of each black circle or group is only labeled “Representative”. This person provides the “link” between that group and a group on the next level of government, but takes no direct responsibly for any of the 5 types of systems on the lower level. The thin grey arrows represent the link that the same individual provides between two groups on two different levels. This means that neither level of groups can make a decision unless the “link” member agrees.
Every member in a group other than the group’s representative must take on one of the ministerial or cabinet roles, which are the variously shaded ovals within the black circles. These ministerial roles are Chairperson, Ombudsist, Environmentalist,
Public Employer, Publicist, Lobbyist, Economist, Arbiter, Chief Officer and Alternate Representative.
For groups with less than 11 members some of these roles must be doubled up. For instance the member responsible for economic systems in a group with less than 11 members may have to take on both the Economist and the Lobbyist roles. For groups larger than 11 members, cabinet or ministerial roles should be shared.
What is most important is that at least one group member responsible for each of the 5 types of types of change, as well as the representative linked to the upper level group must all be present and involved in every decision made by that group.
For this reason all groups must contain a minimum of 6 representatives, as shown by the 6 short arrows into the centre of the black circle which link the decisions of every member to the goals, principles, rights, responsibilities, rules and regulations applicable to that group. Preferably, groups should not contain more than 30 members so that all representatives may sit together in a single circle and easily talk with each other face to face, although up to 42 members are permissible in exceptional circumstances.
The Consocratic Plan, while reasonably detailed and precise is not fixed or final. One brain alone is not remotely enough to consider all the intimate ramifications of such a complex subject. Many more minds need to be brought to bear on the ideas described here and in the PLAN FOR THE PLANET series books.
What is hoped happens next is that other people will become motivated enough to further clarify the ideas set out here or come up with completely new ones. This website has been established with the hope that a global operating structure similar to Wikipedia can be established so that anyone can contribute to the ultimate form and content of a “structured consensus” decision-making form of government.
With only moderate changes to existing institutions, all people in a Consocracy would not only have control over what happens in their own homes among friends as most people have now, but have personal control over most of their own educational, medical, judicial, religious, environmental management, financial, and social support systems as well.
Though perhaps hard to comprehend at this point in time, the Consocratic System of governance would help resolve the serious intergenerational conflicts now found in Palestine, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, The Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ruanda, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Tibet. On a less dramatic scale, it would stop the polarization of the people in the United States and other older democracies where the public interest has become subservient to corporate interests. It would also sooth the festering problems of many indigenous people in colonized democracies, such as those in North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
The value of the Consocratic System is that it is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It is simply a plan; a voluntarily imposed, collectively agreed, easily amendable, non-political, comprehensive set of civil laws that if adopted in accordance with local legal procedures could help any group of people peacefully evolve their existing social and political institutions from their current well intentioned, but inadequate forms, into institutions that would more closely meet the needs of all those affected by them.
Such evolutionary improvements might not happen overnight, but it would mean that the love, trust, and social justice we human beings have managed to build among ourselves over the last few millennia despite our sometimes belligerent institutions, will not be forced from us altogether by their lingering inadequacies.