Since kindergarten, we have always lived under this illusion that we
can rule by consensus. There, overbearing teachers, who wouldn’t let me
just build the Lincoln Log fort that I wanted to make,
encouraged me to ask other children what kind of fort they wanted, so
they could compromise my grand design. I mean, like Melvin Slutsky knew
the first fucking thing about building forts? That philistine couldn’t
even tie his damn shoes! Anyway. It’s an illusion that still pervades
our lives as adults. Even Congress talks about it all the time and look
how bad they are. It’s at work with Kiara in this webcomic. She really
is trying to work out a solution that benefits everyone, but as is
always the case, someone gets screwed over. In this case, Phil the poor
The Free T-Shirt Problem
This is the problem of design by committee, and after global warming,
it’s one of the biggest problems we have today. As they say at Le
Cordon Bleu in Paris (this is an authentic and true fact. Trust me.)
“Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This glib truism has never been truer.
The idea that we can all put our heads together and be satisfied is an
illusion and the worst kind. Someone will always be left out like poor
It’s like when Mike from HR (how’d he get that job anyway?) shows up
with t-shirts to office teambuilding day. You better believe every one
of those free shirts (and free shirts are one of the major ways I dress
myself) are a men’s extra-large. Why? Because extra-large will fit
almost everyone. However, what about poor Susie? She’s very small (so
much so that it was very amusing when she climbed into the office fridge
that one time), so these shirts aren’t going to stay up when she wears
one. She’ll probably just slide out the neck hole.
Breaking the Cycle
So, what’s the lesson of this webcomic? We could take the time to
find out what everyone wants and rely on expertise to make our group
decision, but that’s too hard. Instead, the easiest way to account for
everyone is to not focus on a consensus that satisfies everyone. Not
everyone will get what they want. Instead focus on giving everyone
something they can actually agree on: what they don’t want. When your
friend asks, “I’m getting pizza, what does everyone want?” turn to her
confidently and say, “So we don’t exclude anyone, how about we instead
focus on what everyone doesn’t want?” That way everyone will be included
and know how I felt when I didn’t get to build the fort I wanted.
See you next week!
Trivia: The Hobarken Herald used to be run by an
executive board until the boss consolidated it through trial by corgi
Wizengamot, a little-known bylaw.