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Election Day, Animal Style - my latest for BBC Future

Animals make collective decisions, too. While non-human species typically don't vote to choose their leaders, they do vote for other more routine decisions, like where to live or where to forage. But they don't have voting machines or ballots to determine the group's consensus, so how do they do it?
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Regan Mercer's profile photoDaniel Estrada's profile photoMichael Fagan's profile photo
 
Voting doesn't produce a consensus, and elections aren't about measuring consensus. In both cases, political power is manufactured by the supposedly democratic process. 

Consensus involves the spontaneous coordination of autonomous cooperators. Voting machines and elections actually impede this process, and instead work by divide and conqueror, which is basically exactly the opposite of consensus. 

This isn't a secret. Virtually no political theorist or policy wonk seriously thinks that consensus is a political goal, much less a virtue or an ideal. Instead, contemporary political theory is largely contractarian; the political world doesn't operate on consensus, but on a variety of (often implicit) contracts that encode just relations between parties, as guaranteed by a sovereign State. 

So it is important to recognize that democracy in nature doesn't operate on the basis of contracts, even implicit ones. To put it another way, consensus is not a matter of agreement. It is a matter of coordination, and many independent parties might be able to coordinate despite deep disagreements. A functional organizational infrastructure is one that encourages autonomous coordination spontaneously. 

Voting and elections surely aren't doing that.
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