Defining Our Terms

After reading so many misuses of some specific words this morning describing agreement, I thought it might be handy to provide a few definitions.


Also unanimous. Unanimity means that everybody agrees with something. It’s rare.


Consensus means “general agreement”. As a rule of thumb you need at least two-thirds of the participants to agree before you can start calling something a consensus.


One half plus one.


When there are more than two opinions being expressed (including “no opinion”), whichever opinion has the most adherents is the plurality opinion.


Fewer than one half plus one.

It is not true that there’s a consensus that President Obama is the worst president of the post-war period. One poll has found that it is a plurality opinion.

13 comments… add one
  • If you were to ask me who the worst president of the post-war period was, I’m not sure what I’d say. It’s a crowded field. For much of my life Truman was widely considered a terrible president but he’s been rehabilitated over the last couple of decades.

    I think that Jimmy Carter was an awful president. Many people think that Nixon was a bad president. The irony of that is if you could list Nixon’s accomplishments without revealing they were his accomplishments many of the same people who think he was a bad president would say he was a great president. Just as one example, he proposed a form of single-payer reform for our healthcare system.

    George W. Bush ranks high (or low) on the list of bad post-war presidents but I suspect that history will be kind to him.

    In terms of being effective in implementing bad policies I think that you have to hand the prize to Johnson.

  • TastyBits

    Nixon’s accomplishments would rate him one of the worst for me, but his extracurricular activities garner him a special place – head, pike, warning sign.

    I joke not.

  • Andy

    I get tired of the “worst President” so-called debate. I think we need a worst Congress debate.

  • steve

    History will be kind to Bush? He presided over the run up to the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and gave us the Iraq War. Massive fails on the domestic side and foreign policy. Are you thinking historians will look back fondly on the Iraq War? Which domestic cause will win praise? No Child? Cutting taxes? Medicare drug bill? Not sure why that would be the case. LBJ, because of Vietnam, deserves major consideration on the bad list, but he at least had the Civil Rights Act and Medicare.


  • TastyBits


    The economic collapse began with the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1998.

    As for President Bush’s place in history, you do not need to hyperventilate. If you are correct, you do not need to convince anybody. If you are wrong, you are wasting your time.

    Time. Either you have it, or you do not.

  • Guarneri

    “The economic collapse began with the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1998.”

    I think you have to weave the concept of unwarranted credit extension into any such discussion, but yes, institutionally and legislatively this set a lot into motion.

  • TastyBits


    There is an attempt to re-write history and blame President Bush and Republicans. The Fed and the regulators are two prime culprits, but lack of regulations are cited as the problem.

    The past six years are a total failure, and rather than admit that liberal economic theory is wrong, liberals want to blame the failure on President Bush and Republicans.

  • The past six years are a total failure, and rather than admit that liberal economic theory is wrong, liberals want to blame the failure on President Bush and Republicans.

    I think that’s hyperbolic. I think the policy responses of the last six years have sometimes been wrong and sometimes inadequate but they’ve been wrong and inadequate in very much the same ways as the policy responses of the previous eight years were.

  • TastyBits

    Republicans do buy into liberal economic theory because the easy money provides capital, and President Bush is not blame free. His policies were for easy money.

    What the last six years proves is that easy money is not free. Anybody who has followed my comments has a good idea of where this will go, but I do not have the time right now to elaborate.

  • Modulo Myself

    Ranking presidents is always stupid. It’s like claiming history has vindicated Truman, when in fact, a bunch of middlebrow historians have revised his image from a middling Rotarian to something of a master Cold Warrior.

    Also, I suspect that in twenty years, after the majority of people who were traumatized by the Carter era die off, Carter will be looked at kindly, especially the stuff that did him in, like the malaise speech and not going bonkers over the Evil Empire like Reagan. Plus, he was serious about the environment, and oddly, this may matter in twenty years.

    Overall, I think the high regard for Reagan and Clinton will be flattened. Their charm does not hold up to repeat viewing. I’m not even sure if Clinton’s charm ever held up outside the people who were really into politics and stated it as a natural fact.

    Nixon will never escape his era. If he does, someone will just listen to his tapes and be more fascinated by him as a human, which is bad news for Nixon.

    And outside of a couple books that will point to Bush II’s personal decency, there is no way, unless we have a coup, that literate Americans are going to be able to identify at all with Bush and his supporters. He just will not make sense. Meeting a passionate Bush supporter will be like meeting a passionate advocate of the Garfield presidency.

  • Guarneri

    I’ve said this before. I guess I’ll say it again. (and I can’t imagine that the videos are not still available on the net) You can go watch CSPAN tapes of hearings in the early aughts where the likes of Barney Frank etc absolutely crucified regulators who were warning of the developing dangers of easy credit, especially for home purchases. They got absolutely humiliated (mostly by Democrats) for having the temerity to say so. Maxine Waters even went the “call racism” route.

    It is a either total ignorance or a deliberate total re-write of history to cite Bush and “his” anti-regulatory posture. I hold him accountable for moving on to his own issues rather than screaming bloody murder about credit standards and asset bubbles. Call it another byproduct of the Iraq war. But a regulatory pussycat? No. The Dems have enough blood on their hands on that one for many transfusions.

  • steve

    Yes Drew. Minority party Congressmen run things.

    “It is a either total ignorance or a deliberate total re-write of history to cite Bush and “his” anti-regulatory posture.”

    It is ignorance to claim otherwise. The GOP controlled all three branches, not the Dems. It was Bush’s OTC denying requests from the state AG’s. At the very least, aren’t you the guy that talks about competency and leadership? Bush and his CEA/Treasury sat and watched the worst housing bubble in our history. Most of those subprime loans were liar’s loans. That was something the finance sector thought up all on its own. Cant be blamed on any govt institution. What they do need to take blame for is watching and doing nothing. That is the real Bush anti-regulatory stance. The belief, as voiced by your boy Greenspan, that markets wouldn’t do something stupid like that. (Talk about a failure to understand incentives.)


    PS- I will be quite willing to match your hearings with Frank with ones from Pinto and Wallison, (yes, those guys) testifying before Congress in the early 2000s that the GSEs were not making enough loans to poor folks. Not enough subprime loans as it turns out. These were conservative thinkers appearing before a GOP run Congress, i.e. the folks with the votes to run the place. (Please read Dave’s post on the definition of a majority.)

  • TastyBits


    You need to leave the world of pink ponies and fairy dust.

    The GSE’s were buying every scrap of garbage paper they could. Of course, what do you think the people who sold them the crap then did?

    Turbo Timmy should have raised capital margins and downgraded the assets of the institutions he was regulating, but instead, he kept the party going. His reward – Sec. of Treasury.

    Rep. Frank and Sen. Dodd had the opportunity to fix the problem, but they could not bring themselves to go against Wall Street.

    By the way, liar’s loans are Alt-A. They are not sub-prime. They are totally different products for totally different customers. Both have been around for decades, and both serve a legitimate purpose.

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