The virtue of compromise
In libertarian circles, including this very site, the subject of “compromise” has been a common one over the last little while. Senator Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, rather than Ron Paul, served as a catalyst for thrusting the word into the limelight of our small, but unquiet, world.
For many, the word “compromise” is an evil word. Dropping profanity while whipping out one’s genitals is more socially acceptable than to speak of “compromise.” The problem is, those who abhor the word are the very ones who will lament the lack of change.
When one takes a look at how things happen, they will see that change rarely happens over night. It takes time. One day, something is perfectly legal and accepted. Then, over time, attitudes shift and it’s no longer accepted. Finally the day comes that an action is declared illegal. The decision is often met with great fanfare as the crusaders applaud their victory against the forces of evil.
Unfortunately, that victory is usual a victory of tyranny over liberty. For every libertarian I know, the goal is to move that window of accepted and legal back to where it once was, and then push it even farther. However, what many libertarians fail to accept is that instant change is not going to happen.
Instead, embracing compromise shouldn’t make someone a pariah, but show a certain level of wisdom…providing that the compromise moves us closer towards liberty.
On any issue, there is a window. It sits on a line between liberty and tyranny. If a compromise moves us closer towards liberty, then it clearly should be embraced. If it puts us in a position to move closer towards liberty, then it should at least be considered.
Compromise, like anything else, has its dark side. For example, the NRA’s compromise on the Brady Bill that requires background checks actually moved the window more towards tyranny and shouldn’t be accepted. Any compromise that ends up with the window closer towards tyranny is, to me, unacceptable. Could the end result be worse without that compromise? Maybe, but it could also kill the bill without a nationally known and respected gun rights organization’s stamp of approval.
The point is that compromise isn’t some evil word, despite some’s claims to the contrary. A little change is better than no change after all. Not only that, but you then begin to be able to use the other side’s words against them.
One example of this is Georgia’s gun carry laws. When GeorgiaCarry.org began to press for expanding where guns could be carried legally, many lamented that it wasn’t enough. However, the other side constantly trotted out the “there will be blood in the streets” argument to use against such expansions. However, the next time a bill came up, the anti-gun crowd again trotted out the old chestnut. GeorgaCarry.org members were able to simply point to the profound lack of blood in the streets. The other side’s warnings began to fall on more and more deaf ears.
Gun rights laws are hardly the only way that would work either. States that have legalized pot can show that critics complaints of increased addiction are bunk. Neveda shows that legalized prostitution can actually produce positive outcomes for a state and reduce the number of prostitutes beaten or killed, or that legalized prostitution can significantly curb the trafficing of underage girls for use as sex slaves.
These measures all serve as examples, but their essentially compromises. They’re not what libertarians want, but their just a bit closer than it used to be. Compromise isn’t necessarily a bad word. It can actually be a virtue.