Posts tagged compromise

Column on An Extremist, and Proud of it

An Extremist and Proud of it

Tibor R. Machan

Yes, I am that for sure, an extremist. I am totally against taxes, consider them extortion. I think all government regulations are vile, cases of prior restraint and thus unjust. I think a government has only the function assigned to it in the Declaration of Independence, namely, to protect our rights.

I knew I was an extremist from the time Barry Goldwater announced that “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” That’s because an extremist is just someone who holds a set of positions that is internally consistent, uncompromising, and demands full integrity.

Of course, once you enter the political fray, it is pointless to be all these things except in how you identify and hold your political position. In the political philosophy one is convinced is sound, everyone ought to be an extremist, even a politician, but in one’s strategies for realizing one’s principles in public policy it is quite all right to be practical, pragmatic, or prudent. This extremism is a matter of holding certain views, not in throwing bombs or murdering one’s adversaries.

Politics takes place among thousands and thousands of people and many of them have agendas very different from one’s own. To make any headway at all in the direction of the policies that would help realize one’s political philosophy, at least to some degree, one cannot simply hold out for the vote that will agree with that philosophy. Here is where compromise is required but never in watering down one’s ideals.

It is mostly those whose views are wishy-washy but who do like to wield power who promote the idea that compromise in how one thinks about issues is necessary, even honorable. But that is false. The world does not conform to a compromised position on anything–it is a consistent system of facts disallowing any inconsistencies or contradictions as possibly true. But the sociology of politics does make compromises useful, provided one never forgets the goals that are being served by it. In and of themselves compromises are worthless–they are in fact evidence of incoherence. But as means to get closer to one’s objectives when inescapably working with a lot of folks who hold drastically different views they have merit.

Extremists are folks who stick to their guns as a matter of principle and integrity but they aren’t prevented by this from making headway through the give and take of politics. A good case in point would appear to be Representative Ron Paul. Dr. No, as he is often called, holds to his principles unwaveringly but he does have the skills of a politician to make progress toward his goals in the midst of colleagues with whom he doesn’t see eye to eye.

Those who defend the idea that a politician must not be principled, must not hold to fundamentally coherent ideas, are hoping that they will make headway with their own ideas while their opponents wobble. Some issues, especially, aren’t about how much or how little should be done but about whether certain objectives are even permissible in a free country. Abolitionists knew about this well and while many were willing to politic about various measures that more or less promoted abolition, they never caved in on the idea that blacks were human and thus had all the same basic rights that human beings have. Maybe this involved taking two steps ahead and one backwards but they knew that all in all there was no warrant for compromising their fundamental position.

Of course there can be a point beyond which no negotiations with opponents is tolerable. One could give away the ball game by going along with certain means so as to attain the necessary goals. At that point one may simply need to withdraw and wait for a more opportune time to press one’s cause.

All of this takes intelligence, discretion, even some special talent and not everyone can do the job well–e.g., some have temperaments that simply don’t suit the machinations of politics. The division of labor applies here as elsewhere. The basic point is that one can be an extremist, a principled advocate of a position, and also be smart and skilled about how to make advances toward its implementation. And those who observe such people need to make sure that they aren’t protesting when such smarts are being displayed and mistake it for having compromised political-economic principles.

My Palin Problem

My Palin Problem

Tibor R. Machan

I have always had problems voting. Not only have I been influenced by the likes of Professor Gordon Tullock about how ineffectual one’s vote tends to be but I have very rarely found any candidate who articulates clear and unambiguous principles of liberty to which he or she is fully committed, which in my view is the only way to gain justified trust from voters.

Recently I expressed my dismay about Sarah Palin, based mainly on my inability to find any sound political principles articulated by her. I simply wasn’t able to discover anything like a genuine American political philosophy or even ideology coming from the former Alaskan governor. When I pointed this out to a friend who considers her very promising, he listed for me a number of Palin’s achievements which, he believes, should lead me to change my mind. Here is what he identified as indications of Palin’s desirability for those who champion a fully free society:

* She sued the EPA for misusing the Endangered Species Act (no other governor has had the guts to do that)
* Advocated building nuclear power plants, clean coal and pipelines (all of them essential for energy independence and basic economic rationality)
* Came out against the punitive windfall tax on oil companies as a tax on investment.
* Approved of government subsidies only for market-proven alternative energies.
* Said publicly that global warming, even if true, is not anthropogenic.
* Spoke out forcefully and repeatedly in favor of free trade.
* Achieved 7% spending reduction as governor and instituted a hiring freeze.
* Vetoed half a billion of pork projects.
* Called for labor unions to ask permission from their members for political donations.
* Instituted an “ethics in government” reform which was opposed vigorously by the political establishment, left and right.
* Argued that adoption should be a state not a federal issue.
* Supported giving parents the right to opt out of school books they found offensive.
* Passed the most innovative energy bill of any state called the Alaska Gas Inducement Act including a 1715 mile gas pipeline to make available North Slope natural gas (currently being burnt) to the rest of the country.
* Advocated forcefully for drilling in ANWR and offshore waters.
* Opposed spousal benefits for same-sex couples, but vetoed bill denying benefits to gays as unconstitutional.
* Opposed setting up state boards on creationism despite her well-known views on creation.

Admittedly this is an impressive record of going against the current tied of relentless political correctness and bad piecemeal public policy. However, from the viewpoint of someone who believes in a very strict adherence to the principles of the American founding, those that restrict government to but on central task, namely, the securing of our basic (and derivative) individual rights, these achievements do not qualify someone as a dependable political candidate. To whit, there should be no EPA at all! Nuclear plants should be a private sector project, not something for government to mess with. Not only should there be no windfall taxes on oil companies and any tax on investments but the entire policy of extortion by taxation should be scrapped, just as another feudal institutions was, namely, serfdom. And so on and so forth. Every one of the policies listed above as Ms. Palin’s achievements is, as far as someone who is committed to a fully free society is concerned, but a small and uncertain step in the right direction with no full commitment to the free society in sight.

Of course, we live in a world in which advocating the kind of society that is built on the principles of the Declaration of Independence is hardly going to open the door to a political career. Instead it will not even get one on Fox TV, let alone any other mainstream media outfit from which one might champion one’s cause. But then so what? I have decided many moons ago to fight for a fully free society and not some compromise and half-way measure. At least some citizens must insist on the whole shebang, even if it be unrealistic and quite contrary to realpolitik. Others may well dedicate themselves to taking the small, gradual and admittedly needed steps toward such a socio-political system but one size doesn’t fit all. There needs to be at least a substantial number of citizens who insist on nothing but the best, which is a country in which society, including science, the arts, the economy, and so forth, are totally divorced from government (the job of which must be restricted to protecting our rights, period) and on politicians who fight for this, nothing less.

Then, of course, there is Ms. Palin’s very odd reported conviction that creationism is a position comparable to Darwinian evolutionary theory, which is blatantly false. She has said, “Teach both (evolution and intelligent design). You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.” As far as I am concerned, this is a regrettable aspect of the lady’s education and renders her intelligence suspect. But, admittedly, this is not directly relevant–one could be a Moonie or Pentecostalist and still be loyal to the principles of a free society. So I mention the matter only to come clean with my own response to the lady.

Bottom line is that I will stick to working on the best society and its numerous often complicated features and keep championing these and let others take care of the intermediate task of identifying and supporting close-but-no-cigar folks to carry the torch for a second or third best system.