Saturday, July 30, 2011

The PARADOX of Compromise

There is a post at the above link which discusses “Politics and the Paradox of Compromise”.   It was written by David Brooks, on his blog.  I was interested in reading the post because for many years I have noticed what I consider to be a paradox in the concept of compromise.

My suggestion is that you read the post above now, BEFORE you continue to read my post, and that way, my post can have no influence on your impressions of Mr. Brook's above post.  My 30 years in the medical profession imprinted me with the precepts of the scientific method, along with the usual “blind & double blind” constraints.

Hopefully you have read their post, so I will continue with my comments.

The author above defines the paradox as “Herein lies the paradox. Compromise has unambiguous merits across multiple domains, but it is an action to which much of the general population is often decidedly averse.”  His whole post seems flawed, although years ago, I noticed that there DOES EXIST a paradox in the nature of Compromise.

His definition is almost the exact opposite of the paradox of compromise that I noticed years ago, so this second paragraph of his post started an uncomfortable sensation for me.  And as I read further, it became pretty clear that this was the same paradox that I had noticed, but being spun by the liberal/progressive mindset.

My definition of the paradox that I saw can be presented in a “parallel construction” to Mr. Brook’s blog post's definition.  What I saw was “Herein lies the paradox.  Compromise has COMPLETELY ambiguous merits across multiple domains, and it is an action which can be an almost spiritual exercise in some domains, to which NO ONE is adverse, and utter depravity in others, to which EVERYONE is "decidedly adverse”.

This is the ambiguity and paradox that I saw years ago.

After I had recognized and defined the paradox that I saw – the “what”.

Then for me, the fun part started – figuring out what caused the paradox, and could it be cancelled out of the process of compromise – the “why” and "how"?  One common trick in the use of the scientific method is to reduce the number of variables as much as possible to make it easier to parse the fewer number of variables remaining.  So I turned MYSELF into the constant, and then needed to only look to the various domains for the answer of “how and why is there this paradox”.

Mr . Brooks asked the question “…why is it that we so readily preach compromise to our children, our spouses and our business partners but are so averse to it in practice?” – while he mentions the previous three domains, he later brings the domain of politics into the comparison.

The solution I came to years ago as to the “why” is related to the domain.  Any time I perceive the person I am trying to compromise with, as honest, guileless, and without ANY ulterior motive, then compromise  becomes the “almost spiritual exercise”, for example compromise with children, spouses, clergy, business partners, etc. 

But if I perceive the person as dishonest, corrupt, or hiding some ulterior motive, then the exercise becomes “utter depravity”, and the stronger my perception is, the more depraved the exercise seems.  For example compromise with a cheating spouse, enemy combatant, military interrogation, a criminal, a heroin addict, a sociopath, or a habitual liar, etc.

For me THAT is the paradox that I see, and also the solution to it.  So the next time you are compromising with a spouse on what your 13 year old daughter’s curfew is, when the 13 year-old is out at night – If you suggest 1am and then your spouse suggests 7am, so as to be able to create an ACTUAL 4am curfew, with this style of dishonest compromise, you don’t have the “almost spiritual” feeling which is possible under FAIR conditions. 

And as another example, if you are trying to reach a political compromise and you suggest your acceptance for a $2.4 TRILLION debt ceiling increase, as proposed by your compromise partner, and he refuses unless you allow him to raise it anytime, at his sole discretion each year, you may feel trapped in the feeling of “utter depravity”, the same as you might feel when trying to compromise with a sociopath, or habitual liar?

God Bless America


  1. Oh, Wow! What a great post. I am so impressed. I actually understood exactly what you were saying, which could be bad for one of us :)). In the second instance, there is no compromise possible, because the goodwill is only one sided-it takes two willing souls for true compromise! Fab!! Thanks. PS: I did look for the David Brooks post but could not find it. I'm thinking now that it is not necessary. :)

  2. A question that comes to my mind, is whether or not you ever noticed the same paradox?

    trailbee, a friend told me at dinner today, that she also could not link to the Brooks post, and I will check on it because it was good when I posted it so I am afraid it may have been remover? It makes my post much more interesting if you compare it with Brooks liberal/progressive post on the same topic!

    I have a question about a post I am holding before posting it, but I don't want to discuss it here publically. Could you e-mail me at billbowhb(at)gmail(dot)com so I can send my question to you?

  3. UPDATE: The Brooks post is back up now, and VERY much worth reading.