Saturday, February 19, 2011

On principles, there can be no compromise

A few days ago, I had yet another conversation with my newspaper editor over the content of my columns. I get along pretty well with the editor and I think he has a difficult job trying to work out differences between me and the publisher. (I am sorely tempted to quit the newspaper writing gig due to the frustration and the dread that comes with each week's submission, but that's a different subject.)

Anyway, speaking of why my columns are so hard to get past the publisher led to this exchange:

The editor said something to the effect of "The difficulty is that you are serious about libertarianism. You don't compromise."

To which I responded something like "Face to face I am very willing to compromise. As long as someone isn't attacking me, there is usually some way to compromise. Principles are not the place I can compromise."

Of course, my whole answer was a lot longer-winded.

As a libertarian, I compromise a lot, in day-to-day life with people I deal with. It's fairly easy to do as long as others keep their hands off my life.

Yet, the very nature of a statist makes it almost impossible for them to keep their "hands", in the form of "laws", to themselves. That is why compromise seems so difficult when a libertarian is trying to deal with a statist. All the "compromise" that the statist proposes is about how much the statist will be violating the libertarian. That is not "compromise", that is losing ground that can't be regained.

Principles can not be compromised or they are not principles. They are a line in the sand. Whether you defend them or not is up to you, but they don't shift around. If I am laying out the principles of libertarianism, I do no one any service by being wishy-washy or a "nerf libertarian". Compromise can come when you decide whether or not to defend that particular principle from this particular violator at this exact moment. Your choice doesn't change the facts of the principles one iota.