Politics is the Art of Compromise

Politics is the art of compromise.

This is not just an old wives’ tale.  This is the way all generations prior to the current one were schooled.  Not just concerning politics, but in all things involving human interactions, including business, international affairs and even marriage.

Politics is the art of compromise.

Slide_BuyNo one gets everything they want.  Half a solution is better than no solution at all.  To a hungry man, half an apple is much preferred to an empty stomach.  More importantly a stubborn, rigid position – even if it is sometimes the right one – will often do more harm than good.  Is a bad deal really worse than no deal at all?  Sometimes, but not all the time.

One of the many great things about the USA and American politics has always been the pragmatism of its people, and by extension its elected representatives.  Within the limits of a moral and ethical framework, let’s do what works!

Practice is better than theory.  Indeed, praxis has often been considered on this continent as the royal path towards a higher truth.  The outstanding American contribution to the history of philosophy is Pragmatism (ref: William James).

Two issues dominating the news as we start a new year in 2013, at least here in the States, are fiscal responsibility and  gun control.  How does ‘Politics is the Art of Compromise’ apply to these issues?

‘Fiscal cliff’ compromise is allowing for both new revenues and spending cuts.  If the deal is too complicated and the emotions too raw to allow for a grand bargain to be accomplished all at once, then we should do it one step at a time.  Alliance professionals such as myself are delighted to see people of different opinions and backgrounds coming together to reach an agreement, even an imperfect one.

Bi-partisan voting on any issue, especially one as important as debt reduction and fiscal responsibility, is a good sign, not an indication of weakness or lack of conviction.  We need leaders in government and business and unions to be willing to do some compromising to get things done and move on to the next challenge.  Have we lost the fine art of conversation?  Have we become too intellectually lazy to design and implement creative collaborative solutions?

So what is the ‘art of compromise’ in practical terms for gun control?  The second amendment to the American constitution guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms.  It is estimated that half of all firearms in the world can be found in the USA.  The extreme positions are ‘no guns’ and ‘all guns’.  The comprise is somewhere in between.  The recent shooting of children in Newtown, CN has shocked us all to a state of numbness.

This one is easy:  no nukes, no tanks, no missiles, no machine guns, no bazookas, no automatic or semi-automatic weapons for personal use.  None of these arms should be owned and operated by nonprofessionals.  The sport and pleasure of individual citizens owning these weapons should be deemed extreme and rendered illegal.  Hunting rifles and handguns for self-defensive are fine if there are adequate background checks and proper controls.  Gun ownership is a right but also a privilege.  In some states it is easier to buy a gun than to rent a car.

Politics is the art of compromise.  This does not mean that you have to surrender your personal convictions and always level the decision-making process to the lowest common denominator.  This does not mean everyone is unhappy because they only get half a solution.  But it does mean that effective leaders have to keep an open mind and be able to identify the greater good and the lesser of two bad solutions, and then make a timely choice, in good faith, to the best of their ability.

Negotiated solutions are almost always preferred to unilateral ones.  Democracy is a messy process.  But it is the best one we have.  Let;s make it work better going forward and demonstrate statesmanship and the art of compromise.

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