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May 17, 2012

HARBESON: The compromising nature of compromise

SELLERSBURG — After Indiana’s long-time incumbent Richard Lugar failed to retain his Senate seat, many of his supporters mourned this loss by focusing on what they consider to be one of his most valuable character traits — the willingness to compromise.

These folks consider this to be a prime virtue for any politician and are very concerned about candidates who express skepticism regarding the value and benefits of compromise within government. They worry about others who do not share their blind faith in the concept.

When writing about the implications of Lugar’s loss, former Democratic Congressman Baron Hill even moaned that “compromise has become a four-letter word to some, unfortunately.”

Why are these people so concerned about compromise? Well, one reason could be that they understand how important compromise is when looking to increase government spending.

It happens all the time. One side puts forth a budget amount on a given item that they consider to be “appropriate” and the other side makes a counter offer. Since compromise will logically fall somewhere in between, government spending always increases when a compromise is made.

So, those who hope to control government spending end up losing every time politicians compromise with other people’s money. And once this connection is made, those people will naturally begin to question the value of compromise.

But there’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of compromise. This is simply an example of how government coercion can skew and twist any concept beyond its original meaning and purpose. As a matter of fact, compromise outside of the coercive system is considered to be invaluable in many areas of life.

For example, when I hear the word compromise, I usually think about personal relationships, particularly married couples. It’s practically a cliché now that when people who have maintained long term relationships are asked to offer advice, they almost always mention the willingness to compromise as being of primary importance.

So what’s going on here? Why is there no controversy about compromise within the couple relationship? Why is the concept of compromise not considered a four-letter word in this situation?

One big reason is that any compromise that occurs within the couple relationship is a give and take between individuals who are each compromising only on behalf of their unique individual selves. They are also compromising with a partner they have freely and voluntarily chosen who shares most of their values, goals, dreams and desires.

They don’t have to deal with a separate group of people claiming to have the authority to represent all couples who reside in a given geographical area who determines what is in every couple’s best interest and then proceeds to create “appropriate” compromises, and force all couples to comply. No, so far at least, politicians stay out of the compromises couples make as they work to live peacefully together.

But the politicians are involved in who enters into these relationships — which makes me wonder, if the people mentioned at the beginning of this column think compromise within government is so great, when are we going to see an offer to compromise on this issue? The compromising politicians could say to opponents, “OK, so you don’t want gays to marry? Well, let’s compromise. How about if we allow gay women to marry but not men? Come on, whaddya say, let’s broker this deal.”

It’s easy to see that such a politician-brokered compromise would be ridiculous, but how is it really any different than all the other compromises politicians make as they continually use their power to manipulate and control everyone’s lives?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson considers government to be a four-letter word. Send her your favorite four-letter words by writing to Debbie@debbieharbeson.com.

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