Thursday, January 10, 2019

Understanding Compromise

Sometimes people come to a disagreement. Sometimes disagreements must be resolved before people can proceed and move forward. The resolution of a disagreement can take several forms: one person is right, the other person is right, they meet somewhere in the middle, they find another option neither initially brought to the table.

There are two main approaches to figuring out which of those four options is best, and they tend to come down to whether or not one believes in first principles. This is a worldview difference that can cause one side to completely misunderstand the other.

For those who believe a question is a matter of principle, the way to resolve a conflict is by returning to the fundamentals, figuring out a good way forward, and then get agreement from everyone to conform to that standard.

In this view, compromise is bad because it reflects a tainting of good principles with things that are not good. If I'm wrong, the last thing I want you to do is move in my direction when I should be moving in your direction or some other, whichever is shown to be good. Agreement is better than compromise.

The danger here is in thinking about that which is right vs. that which is good. To think in terms of right vs. wrong can frame one's thinking as “right”being a single option that can blind a person to other good options. To think in terms of good is to embrace freedom and consider multiple possibly good options. Principles should be used to point to options that are good, but not necessarily only one good option.

For those who do not view issues as a matter of principle, they are left with viewing all differences as a matter of power. They reject a view of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, and instead view matters in terms of raw power and politics. The strong rule the weak. Might makes right. They know what they want, and anything in between where we are now and where they want to be gets them closer to their objective. The politically palatable rallying cry is to meet in the middle, to compromise.

To those who believe in principle, when dealing those advancing an agenda that is neither good nor right, compromise is another word for corruption of principle. Of that they want to have no part. This is why conservatives, who tend to view issues as a matter of principle, usually view compromise as a bad idea and anyone who even raises the topic as either a part of or facilitating the opposition by framing issues in terms that favor power over principle.

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