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Mandel, D. R. (2004). Unanimity may be improbable; dictatorship is worse: Comment on The Dangers of Unanimity by R. B. Zajonc. Dialogue, 19(2), 28-29. Unanimity may be Improbable, but Dictatorship is Worse: Comment on “The Dangers of Unanimity ” by

By R. B. Zajonc and David R. Mandel


In the last issue of Dialogue, R. B. Zajonc made an interesting claim—namely, that the requirement of unanimity in political decision making can be dangerous because the probability of having many decision makers each arrive at the correct decision is exceedingly small. Certainly, world history provides no shortage of examples that illustrate the dangers of uniformity pressures, about which social psychologists from LeBon (1896) onwards have commented. However, Zajonc’s argument is quite different and deserves closer examination. In his example, ten decision makers including the President, Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, and five other White House decision makers have to choose between a preemptive war in Iraq or continued weapons inspections, and the reader is asked to assume “that one of these outcomes is by far the wiser ” (p. 14). Further, the reader is asked to assume that each decision maker has an even chance of picking the wiser alternative. According to Zajonc: If unanimity is required, then this group of ten decision makers has less than one in a thousand chances (.5 10 =.000976) of reaching the wiser decision. Eve

Year: 2011
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