Imagine the outcome if all government decisions were made on the basis of unanimity. The people would benefit in unimaginable ways. Instead what exists is government based on consensus which for some leaders means “I’ve listened to your views and will let you know what is your opinion”. This happens in business organizations of varying sizes and objectives as well. The difference is that in commercial organizations the business owner operates in his own interest, with his own funding, but in government, you are operating on behalf of the people who elected you so your decisions have intergenerational implications.
A world based on unanimity means we would all be of one mind. It will make compliance so much easier. The Greek philosopher Marcus Cicero said, “Great is the power, great is the authority of a senate that is unanimous in its opinions.” Substitute senate with government. Unanimity means total agreement before we move on whereas consensus means we have general agreement or accord. Time and time again we have seen decision making by consensus fall apart and when it falls apart there are dire consequences. Coalition governments are notorious for decision making by consensus and it leads to weak decisions.
Dream with me for a moment: how would crime be impacted if the government, meaning party in power and the opposition agreed on a crime plan? I guarantee you that crime would be reduced in a short time. Or if they agreed a method for party financing. Then no financier would be able to hold anyone to ransom.
Unanimity as a method of operating is difficult. Just imagine, planning your family vacation on the basis of unanimity. It will be nightmarish but when you come to agreement it will make sense and be binding. Our country has suffered tremendously because there is no mechanism for agreeing on the imperatives for development. A Bajan friend lamented that elections in T&T mean starting over the race whereas in other countries it means passing on the baton. I had no answer for this because it is so true.
Over the years we have lost tons of money on so many initiatives like building the Interchange, halting Vision 20:20 and building a mass transit system. New governments feel compelled to stop whatever is in progress, repackage it and start over. Boards change in private sector organizations but the strategic direction remains. When it is time to change strategy, it is approached in a systematic manner. When governments change strategy the population is hardly ever included. One can argue that the manifesto is the opportunity for inclusion of the population but the practice would not support such a thesis. The need for a mechanism through which there is agreement is critical.
The next true leader to distinguish himself or herself in our country will do so by seeking unanimity on a few big ticket items. The country is yearning for a different kind of leader with a style that is even handed, transparent and visionary. Fifty years ago the Eric Williams vision transitioned us from colonialism to independence. The leader of the future has to take us to the next stage -interdependence.
In an interdependent world we will have to focus more on broad interests and less on small niches of people who will benefit. This means that objective criteria will have to guide decision making. Technology continues to shrink our global village while events in the remotes places have huge impacts locally. Our future survival requires a different approach. Decision making based on unanimity is a doable option in a country of our size.