on Compromise

“All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take”. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement

We are told that compromise in politics is a necessity in order to get business done. Unfortunately, as of late, the word compromise has morphed into a far different definition, more akin to the surrender of principles that a meeting in the middle. Some of our leaders seem to think that unless you wholeheartedly agree with their view of the world, then you are unwilling to compromise, and unwilling to move the country forward. The problem with this definition is that many of the issues that our leaders are taking on have nothing to do with their constitutional mandate, and therefore a “compromise” often requires one side to abdicate their beliefs, which is the very thing that our founders wanted to prevent.

The purpose of government under the U.S. Constitution revolves around two things: the protection of our lives and of our stuff from those who wish to forcefully take either one. That is it. Any issue outside either of these two mandates merely triggers a colliding of beliefs, under which only a compromise of principles can happen. Is this what we fought a Revolution for, to force our neighbor to believe the same way we do, and finance that belief with their money and criminalize them if they refuse? Certainly this is not the true definition of compromise, yet this is the very thing our leaders do when they demonize those that refuse to surrender their principles in favor of someone else’s.

The problem with government expanding outside its Constitutional boundaries is that it then begins to tread into areas where it was never permitted to go.  As a result, the only way for government to then prove that it is getting things done is to sacrifice individual liberty in favor of this new definition of “compromise” (or its kissing cousin, “consensus”). The problem with this is that the only thing that manages to get done is just more control over our lives, and that is not an accomplishment that anyone should celebrate.

If someone has to surrender their deeply held principles and their liberty in order to “move the government forward” in the “spirit of peaceful compromise”, then that is probably a good indicator of where the government should not go.   If any of our elected leaders were to read the Federalist Papers, they would see that the main purpose of the U.S. government was to protect individual liberty, not to try to mold the country into a consensus-based belief system based on what the masses (or a group of political elites) believe to be the best idea at the time. Ideas always change, but individual liberty should not.

The art of compromise should appeal to issues of common sense; it should never require a surrender of principles or liberty. But, our government has now grown way beyond the boundaries where common sense is possible anymore, and that is why the erosion of liberty continues. In order to return to a government where common sense reigns, and true compromise can exist, we must shrink the government itself. The government must return to working only within its constitutional boundaries, and individual liberty and resources (money, property) returned to the people. We cannot continue to feed the beast, or ultimately, the only ones left for food will be us.

“You may either win your peace or buy it: win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil”. John Ruskin (1819-1900), leading English art critic during the Victorian era

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