What is compromise?
The Nature of Compromise




The nature of compromise

"An amicable agreement between parties in controversy, to settle their differences by mutual concessions. " Websters 1828 edition

You often hear about the merits of compromise - its one of the most used words in an average evening news. "Unions compromised with the company", "the department of transport reached a compromise with the pressure group", "The Jordanians have settled on a compromise with the Isrealis" etc etc

Compromise sounds ok, it usually signifies that some conflict didnt happen or that some people seemed to agree. Well there are two types of compromise. The above definition describes the process, it doesnt indicate the context.

Compromise between good and good.

This is more of an agreement, the kind to you come to when discussing which movie to see with you partner, the kind two businesses come to when settling a contract. A good example is the one many of us encounter in buying a used car. The seller wants 3000 and you want to pay 2500 so there is your disagreement. But because you are both proceeding from the principle of trade, that one must exchange a value for a value and that property is owned you can, after discussion, arrive at an amicable agreement to mutual benefit. No one is losing, in fact both win. Compromise, in this context, is only possible between people who recognise the appropriate principle - now imagine what would happen if you arrived and simply demanded the car for nothing in denial of his ownership of it!

If we are familiar with principles and rights then we can recognise the altogether different kind of compromise as described below.

Compromise between good and bad.

I can think of no better way to begin this than to quote Ayn Rand, a person who really understood what compromise meant.

"In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube."

Perhaps thats worth reading again. If you have a plate of food infront of you and a person wishes to swap that for deadly poison you would refuse right? Ofcourse! You would also recognise that any compromise between the food and the poison would lead to your death. Now lets assume a fellow said he was going to shoot you in the head and you managed to talk him down to 'just' shooting you in the leg. Would you cry "victory!"? ofcourse not - all you've done is reduced the damage. Even if you talked him out of it completely you're not gaining - you would be no better off than before.

This second example is exactly what goes on in politics. The US democrat and republican parties are always playing this game. The democrats might suggest a huge tax rise of 5% and the republicans 'bravely' beat it 'down' to a 1% rise and claim victory. Who are they trying to kid? After 5 rounds of this the democrats have got what they wanted. It works this way because both parties proceed from the same premise - that they should be in charge of the people, that they should be directing peoples lives, so it is no wonder that every year liberty is crushed a little more. Its the same with many laws. Want to suppress free speech in the UK? Suggest that ISPs have to provide allsorts of information on their clients then 'compromise' with them, so they only have to provide some information - hardly a defence of liberty - infact the very opposite.

When a politician talks to you about compromise take a step back and see which of your individual rights he is 'compromising' and realise that he intends to anull them whilst trying to sell you the delusion of having gained some ground during your 'compromise'. You havent gained, you can only ever lose when you accept their premises. It is only when you dont compromise your individual rights that you may begin to win.