Compromise is a myth

There seems to be a consensus in modern America that the culture of government is so bifurcated, so antagonistic that partisan bickering stymies any action. Or so the bloviating media commentators incessantly claim, often citing the paltry number of bills that successfully navigate the journey from bill to law.

There is nothing wrong with qualification, but it must be coupled with quantification. He Government organs could pass 15 bills in a week. But, these could all be in the pursuit of a tyranny that shrouds itself in the mantle of democracy, legitimizing its rights-voiding actions through legitimate channels such as executive orders.

Conversely, government could pass only one bill in a year, but it could be the single most brilliant bill in the history of Western civilization, balancing the budget and fully funding government services while drastically reducing the tax burden, thus negating the need to pass further legislation.

But the real problem with the assertion that partisan infighting inhibits government solution to societal issues is the suggested solution — calls for compromise.

Compromise is the standard for rudderless momentum, the rallying cry for hollow impetus, the standard of those who confuse movement with direction.

And it is also a myth that needs to be debunked, both as an entity that exists and as something possessing merit.

Solutions that arise from compromise are usually lauded because they borrow piecemeal from conflicting viewpoints and amalgamate them into some plan that has appeal to all parties involved. The philosophy of “give and take” is promoted as the ultimate virtue in this system.

But anyone who endorses a piece of legislation or a private contract arrived through a reconciliations process is not compromising. Though there may be specific pieces of a deal that one party finds distasteful, it is not so objectionable as to raise the moral compunction to walk away from the contract. Here, parties are engaging not in compromise, but are merely bargaining towards an agreement.

Real compromise involves the violation of moral sentiments. Adherents a specific ideology will never bend their beliefs. If they do, they cannot be said to be true believers. And if they don’t, they will never agree to anything that violates those ideas to which they attach something akin to spiritual reverence. Hence, compromise is a myth.

As to the merit of what should properly be recognized not as compromise but a reconciliations process that tries to accommodate the demands, however outlandish, of all dominant political ideologies, this should not be viewed as some golden standard of good government.

For this is pandering to the least common denominator. It does not look at what is best for the constituents of the citizens, but what is the least objectionable end to all legislators involved. Ultimately, it is a process of self-aggrandizing wherein all the credits of reaching some grand bargain goes to smooth-talking politicians.

Better that no agreement is reached than something accomplished purely for its own sake. Ideologues may be intransigent, they may legitimately destroy the chances of a bill’s passage, there may be merit in ranting and raving against their defiance, but at least they are honest.

Also published on Medium.

All content protected by copyright. The Politics of Discretion, 2016.
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