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When I was growing up, people around me -- public school teachers, national and local political leaders, the broadcast and print media, other useless busybodies -- were very enthusiastic about the idea of compromise.
Compromise, they always proclaimed in glowing terms, is the one indispensible, absolutely magical key to living and working within that best of all possible political worlds, a democracy. If everybody takes a stance and won't budge, if nobody is willing to give at least an inch (if not a mile), why, then nothing will ever get done! (This overlooks the obvious fact that there are circumstances -- almost all of which involve government -- in which nothing ever should get done.)
I think I was in the fourth grade when I began to notice a number of things about this compromise bonnet-bee that made it clear that it was something less than the great notion its proponents always said it was.
The first was that, since neither side can reasonably expect to get what it really wants, the best that anyone can ever hope for from a properly constructed compromise is that both sides will wind up equally dissatisfied. This is not, I submit, an acceptable way to run civilization. It is a recipe to guarantee the perpetuation of bitter conflict.
The second thing that I noticed, thanks to the left-wing politicos in Congress who were usually the principal advocates of compromise, is that it always seemed to be the other guy who was supposed to be so willing to compromise. (Sort of same the way you and I never get to be "others" when "others" are the entities we're all supposed to live to serve.) It was the lefties' opponents who were always accused -- at press conferences and in newspaper columns -- of being stiff-necked and unwilling to accept even a reasonable, "common-sense" amount of legislation.
Somehow, it was always reasonable, "common-sense" legislation that would tear yet another enormous chunk out of the Bill of Rights. (You may have observed that the only time that the left wing ever gives a rodent's rear about the Bill of Rights is when the right wing is in power.)
The third thing that I noticed, even as a nine-year-old kid, was that, having finally been badgered and brow-beaten into accepting a compromise of some kind, whoever had been sucker enough to do it would be expected to do it all over again, the next time the subject came up.
"What's mine is mine," goes the saying, "and what's yours is negotiable."
Which is exactly how we ended up in the mess we're in now.
For example, I remember clearly as a child, watching and listening to the American Medical Association cravenly give way, one step at a time, to slimy leftist politicians -- of course they would have said "compromise" -- until today, Americans are afflicted with a medical situation (it doesn't deserve to be called a "system") that is neither free market nor socialist, but combines all of the worst aspects of both.
Now I ask you: if I could see all of that when I was in the fourth grade, what's wrong with all the people -- the glorious leadership of the National Rifle Association comes to mind -- who can't see it as adults?
Time and time again, the NRA has allowed itself to get beaten up and bloodied -- we and our rights along with it -- because its leaders dullwittedly believe that they can negotiate (read, "compromise") with the enemies of freedom. The badguys know what they want -- absolute elimination of private weapons ownership in America -- while the NRA doesn't have a clue what it's supposed to be fighting for, and never did.
Somebody needs to knock them down, sit on their chests, and scream down their nostrils that any compromise with evil is -- guess what -- evil!
Don't believe me? Let's try a simple thought experiment. Suppose a crazed serial killer invades your home, gets the drop on you (you did have your carry-piece on you, didn't you?) and ties you to a kitchen chair. You see that he's done the same with each member of your family -- for present purposes, let's say that you have a spouse and three kids. The killer tells you that he's looking forward to eviscerating your spouse and three kids while you watch, and then doing the same to you.
Clearly, this is an evil idea.
You reply that you would rather see your family and yourself unharmed.
This is a good idea.
The killer admits that he can see your point. He'll offer you a compromise. He'll only kill two of your family, and you get to choose which.
Okay, is this compromise a good idea or a bad one? While it allows two members of your family to stay alive (provided the killer keeps his word -- and we haven't gotten around to discussing your life, yet), it implicitly demands that you go along with the deaths of the other two, and even requires that you to seal the deal by doing the choosing.
So much for "the lesser of two evils" -- there ain't no such animal.
But if you still think it's a good idea, then you belong in the NRA, which let our enemies pass the National Firearms Acts in the 30s, the '68 Gun Control Act, the "cop-killer bullet" ban that permits the government to tell us what kind of ammunition we can purchase in order to defend ourselves from it, the Brady Bill and Ugly Gun and Adequate Magazine Ban in the 90s, and recently, HR 2640, the "NICS Improvement Act" which tightens the noose around our necks just a little bit more -- all because, reportedly, they were afraid something worse might pass.
So they compromised.
Ain't compromise swell?
But the NRA is far from alone in its eagerness to compromise with evil. In 1977, I was a member of the National Platform Committee of no less freedom-oriented an organization than the US Libertarian Party. I warned my colleagues and compatriots then that the violations most of us had just suffered in the process of flying to the convention city of San Francisco -- they were just starting at the nation's airports and seem mild, today, by comparison -- of everybody's unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights represented the beginning of a fascist regimen that would eventually spread out to engulf the entire country. I was laughed at, and exactly the same excuses were mouthed -- by leading thinkers of the movement -- that you now hear from "useful idiots" in "man in the street" interviews on television.
Not one of them has ever thought to acknowledge since that I was right.
Some thinkers suggest that, in a more general sense, perhaps it is all of us, to one degree or another, who are guilty of helping tyranny advance simply by being willing to make deals with it. We're always too polite with individuals who are evil, crazy, or just plain stupid, meekly going along with the kind of outrageous nonsense -- how would Jefferson have responded to the demand that he provide urine samples and other intimate bodily substances before he was allowed to have a job? -- that would have had our ancestors priming the pans of their flintlocks.
Without pausing to read it, the Congress passed the USA Patriot Act -- which, for all intents and purposes, cancelled out the Bill of Rights -- and hardly anybody so much as whimpered. Before that, it was warrantless wiretapping, no-knock raids, RICO (designed specifically to deny legal representation to the accused), and legalized black bag jobs of the kind the Watergate burglars went to jail for. Of course now they can enter and search your house and never even tell you about it.
All because most of us are just too bloody polite.
In a matter of less than twenty years, our campuses, the media, and then our places of business were taken over by a kind of social disease we now call "political correctness" in which it's considered unacceptable to call a thing by its true name, to want to know who started the fight, to judge individuals by their actual abilities or virtues, or to enjoy anything that might make the most hypchondriacal lunatic among us whimper or sniffle that he's allergic to anyone even thinking about eating peanut butter, wearing perfume, or smoking tobacco.
What we should have done is laugh in our correctors' fascistic faces, gone right ahead telling jokes about each other, and sent the hypochondriacal loonies off to their loonie bins. Instead -- because we were too blasted polite again -- we allowed them to walk all over us.
We're also too ready to compromise on an international level. No matter what position you may take on immigration issues (I'm an open borders guy, myself), one thing is beyond doubt: there is a conspiracy to flood our southwestern states -- Arizona, New Mexico, southern California, southwest Texas -- with enough foreign nationals to seize them politically and deliver them to Mexico. This conspiracy is taking place in broad daylight, with the full knowledge and support of the Mexican government, and we're too damned polite to do anything about it.
It's called "la Reconquista" -- the reconquest -- and it festered first in the academia-decayed minds of far-left Hispanic professors in border-state universities. And it's a lie: for the most part the lands in question never belonged to Mexico to begin with; the plan is that they never will. Instead, the advocates of _la Reconquista_ yearn for their very own socialist paradise called "Aztlan", where the economic system that killed tens of millions through arctic exile, political execution, and good old fashioned starvation, the system that failed in Russia, virtually destroyed eastern Europe, and is being rapidly abandoned by China will be given a good old college try all over again.
You know, I don't mind people reinventing the wheel from time to time, but when they keep insisting on reinventing it square, it gets annoying.
The solution is an easy one. The President should simply declare that any Mexican state that ratifies the American Bill of Rights by a two-thirds supermajority may join the United States. (Just to be fair, we should make the same offer to Canadian provinces, as well.) Believe me, that will start brushfires it will take the Mexican government a century to put out, and we'll hear nothing about "la Reconquista" ever again.
And therefore we won't have to compromise with it.
There are, in fact, two kinds of compromise, trivial and moral. A trivial compromise concerns issues unrelated to questions of good and evil. "What shall we have on our pizza?" is an excellent example. So are "What movie shall see tonight?" and "Where shall we take our next vacation?"
There's nothing bad with this trivial kind of compromise. It's how marriages and friendships manage to last. Knowing that, the enemies of freedom try to make the other kind of compromise they want you to make -- a compromise between good and evil -- seem just as ordinary and trivial.
So let me offer you this simple pair of moral and political guidelines.
If a political proposal is made that weakens or destroys the Bill of Rights, or if it generally threatens to damage or limit individual liberty, then it's evil, and it cannot be compromised with. It can only be opposed and ultimately obliterated by all of the means at our disposal.
Likewise, as libertarians know, if a proposal calls for government (or any other) use of force against anyone who hasn't initiated force first, or plainly offered to, it's evil, and it cannot be compromised with.
If you try, all you end up with is more evil.
A final thought. There are some subjects that are so fundamental and important that they can never be subject to voting, to the passage of legislation, or to the latest whims or fads of judges. That's why the Founding Fathers (some of them, anyway) insisted upon a Bill of Rights, so that some individual rights could be sacrosanct, set above politics: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from search and seizure, freedom from drumhead and kangaroo courts, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and notably, freedom to own and carry weapons.
Obviously, it didn't work out that way. And the reason it didn't was compromise. If we want any of it back, what we have to give up is compromise. We need a Constitutional amendment that will put teeth in the Bill of Rights, severly punishing anybody who attempts to violate, eliminate, or get around it. And there can be no compromise about that.
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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