The last couple of days, Doug Ross and I have had a sidebar conversation growing out of the earlier thread about the importance of compromise.
Doug argued that we may all talk about compromise and how important it is to getting along with the people in our lives or in shaping public policy, but we don’t practice it all that much — which to him is not a bad thing. With “we” referring to regulars on this blog, including Doug and me.
Excerpts from a couple of his emails:
Who among your most regular commenters would you say ISN’T uncompromising? Including yourself. I think we’re all of a certain age and high level of certainty about our beliefs based on our experiences. …
Of this group, which do you think could be convinced to make even a moderate change in his/her views?
bud, Kathryn, Phillip, Bryan, Silence, Mark, Karen
Anyone past the age of 40 who hasn’t got a clear view of his beliefs, principles, and view of the world is probably pretty lost.
I know that I have made some large swings in my beliefs in the past 10-15 years – I was pro-choice and am now pro-life. I was against gay marriage but now am for it. I am definitely coming around on single payer.. it beats the current alternative since we can’t go back to the former.
My take on it is that we are each a function of our experiences. You would have a hard time convincing me that you would have the same view of the military had you grown up in my house or Phillip’s. You are what you know and what you’ve seen and done….
So… bud, Kathryn, Phillip, Bryan, Silence, Mark, Karen… were your ears burning? Since we were talking about you, I thought you might want to join in.
I said he probably had a point — although a couple of y’all (maybe Mark? maybe Karen?) are perhaps slightly more open to changing your minds than the rest. I think maybe the more “malleable” people are probably shyer about posting. They are the lurkers (and you know who you are — I can see several of you out there on Google Analytics as I type this). The more, shall we say, definite people are less bashful about making statements for all to read.
And I’ve said this before, but I really don’t think I’m that hard to convince with a good argument. People used to change my mind during our debates at The State — before we took a stand on them that is, during the decision-making stage.
And from time to time, I would change my own mind in the process of writing something. I would have a thesis, and as I worked on it and collected evidence I would find that my thesis just didn’t work, and that I wanted to say something different, often very different.
I once had a candidate endorsement on the page, and the page ready to go to press, when I changed my mind (because of a single phone conversation that I had in the early evening after I thought I was done with the next day’s pages), and pulled it and endorsed her opponent.
But the things we talk about on the blog are usually things that I’ve made my mind up about over a course of years and decades of testing them against contrary arguments. Which makes my positions hard to shake.
There are plenty of issues out there, though, that I haven’t made up my mind about. There’s the ballpark at Bull Street, for instance. Y’all haven’t seen me take a strong stance on that, have you?
I met Alan Wilson yesterday while I was walking my dogs on the statehouse grounds. I introduced myself and told him how impressed I am with his bravery in taking on King Bobby. I would not have bet any money that he would do much of anything worthwhile, when he ran. Ditto Henry McMaster, who really did a lot for domestic violence prosecutions.
I do not believe I would change my core beliefs, but unlike Doug, I believe in Realpolitik. If a compromise will get me closer to the goal, I will do it.
Alan’s a reasonable guy.
One of the things I love about the four most recent AGs getting together is that it appeals so much to my own communitarian, respect-for-institutions brand of conservatism. What they are standing up for is the very essence of our civilization, something that transcends parties or personalities. The rule of law, as it is clearly understood regardless of such distractions as ideology.
Their doing that made me feel good about the society in which I live, which is something that doesn’t happen enough…
I contribute to the blog because I have learned a lot from reading the many thoughtful comments – not to take away from the postings, mind you.
You like the comments better than the posts? You just made the list, buddy! 🙂
I don’t have all the information about anything, even in those areas I feel most knowledgeable. There’s no way I can understand everything about everything, and neither can anyone else. I have no problem adjusting my world view when the information I have changes. To do otherwise would be obstinate and arrogant. In fact, I know that I am wrong or misinformed about some things; I just don’t know what they are yet. I am eager to continue learning to find out where I am wrong.
You can compromise on policy without compromising your value system. But even at that, my value system has evolved. I don’t hold the same beliefs as I did when I wore a younger man’s clothes, and my beliefs and values certainly don’t always line up with those of my siblings and parents.
One of the reasons I enjoy this blog is the wide range of points of view from the posters. Virtually all have said something I agree with, most have said something I disagree with, and many have made me stop and think about something I believe. Everyone here is wrong about something, and everyone here is right about something. I learn stuff here.
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
Are we talking about the ability to reach a compromise, or the ability to change your mind? I see the ability to compromise as a slightly different trait than the ability to change your mind. For instance, I could compromise on an issue even though I might not change my mind about being right.
To be self-critical, I’m probably highly unlikely to moderate my views when we’re speaking in abstractions, because typically, abstractions are discussions of first principles. When we get into more specific things, I feel like I have more of an open mind, but my first principles usually shape everything. (I’m sure y’all see me as an uncompromising bastard in most respects.) 🙂 I typically change my mind the most when confronted with a face-to-face argument in a friendly atmosphere, rather than in the trenches of the internet, where danger lurks around every corner.
I’m always happy to hear people out in their arguments, and I try (I know I should try harder) to realize that as a general rule, everyone is making their argument in good faith for what they actually think is the best policy. However, I apply this rule to non-politicians only.
I went to law school at a mid-western school, where I was probably one of the very few conservative people there, so I was the weird southern, conservative guy. At first, it sucked, but after a few weeks, I made great friends. In hindsight it was a great experience, and I’m glad I didn’t go to USC Law for that reason alone. It made me realize that I can be great friends with people who I don’t agree with. I can’t say that for some people I know. (on both sides) One of my absolute best friends from law school is about as anti-gun as you can get…and you know me.
Which reminds me, I still want to play a chess game with bud. Yeah, he’ll probably whup me, but I just came into possession of a cool Napoleonic chess set that needs a workout. Which also reminds me…
We should do a blog meet-up where Bud can whup me in about 15 minutes, then we’ll drink some beer and argue about economic policy, while Kathryn and Silence play “Win, Lose, or Draw”. Brad can host since, he’s the communitarian. I’m not worried about Doug mooching off my beer…Ayn Rand would frown on that, so he’ll probably be self-sufficient. But I guess it’s OK if I VOLUNTARILY give him one.
As for compromise, I don’t know. As a litigator, I see plenty of value in compromise when facts are in dispute and you don’t want to leave your fate up to a Court. I settle my share of cases, and I try my fair share when I feel I have to.
Sometimes there’s room for compromise – sometimes not. If I was empowered to do so, I could probably come up with some compromises on political issues. For instance: Guns and gay marriage. These issues aren’t related at all, but I would be fine with this compromise:
The anti-gun people stop messing with guns, and the anti-gay people stop messing with gays. In my compromise, a gay couple could get married in South Carolina and have fully automatic weapons if they wanted. I know that ain’t gonna happen – but I’m illustrating how open-minded I can be. Make me an offer, I’ll consider it.
Oh, and we should really do a blog meet up. 🙂
@Bryan – I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, are you really compromising when you agree to settle a case? What is your stake in the transaction? Aren’t you really just advising another party to compromise? What happens when a client doesn’t want to compromise? Do you fight for the client with the same passion as that person has about the issue? Maybe you do.
It seems a lot like political compromise – where each side trades something that really isn’t there’s. Trading higher taxes on a group of people in one bill in return for some new regulation that impacts another group in another bill. Or allowing an amendment to a bill in return for another amendment. This isn’t compromise – it’s bartering with other people’s money and lives.
My analogy for political compromise is this: Say two politicians are arguing over what they should have for dessert. One wants apple pie and the other wants chocolate cake. The politicians will decide to have both (deficits) – or worse, have an apple chocolate pie (Obamacare). That’s not compromise in either case.
Doug. Send me an e-mail. I want to answer your questions, but I don’t want it to de-rail the main comment thread. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I try not to conflate compromise and open-mindedness. When we are at our problem-solving best, we compromise even while holding different positions and beliefs. I think what is most frustrating to many about our public discourse and public policy-making is the tendency to be both uncompromising and closed-minded. Couple that with little commitment to truth or facts and a widespread propensity to advance positions by “straw man” arguments and promoting doctrinaire opinions as fact and we create a noise machine that cripples our ability to solve problems. Think about the number of times politicians, pundits, and preachers try to support a position or strategy by appealing to its popularity – very often among a populace whose thoughts have been skewed by almost propaganda-level repetition of misleading and factually empty talking points. Experience and scientific experiment have demonstrated that the best solutions to difficult problems are yielded by deference to expertise coupled with deliberative crafting that usually involves compromise and attention to the concerns of stakeholders. We’re all pretty good at the easy stuff; for the hard stuff, we need to seek informed design, study, discuss and debate, and avoid taking a quick vote. We tend to power-struggle, demonize, stone-wall, and if all else fails – lie to advance our position. Folks who seek compromise and deliberation are often labeled and attacked (RINO’s DINO’s, fence sitters, not committed). The Blind Men and Elephant story well-characterizes our approach to many complex problems and issues. Unfortunately, we give the noisy arguers more credence than those who have real expertise, broader perspective, and a real commitment to the best answers rather than MY answers.
“I’m not worried about Doug mooching off my beer…Ayn Rand would frown on that, so he’ll probably be self-sufficient. ”
I’ll even buy the first round. Because it will be my choice to do that.
I would think Ayn Rand would only approve of beer made from barley and hops she had grown, and then brewed herself.
Depending on someone to grow the hops and someone else to grow the barley and someone else to transport it and someone else to brew and bottle it and someone else to sell it at retail just seems too collectivist, too much a reminder that we rely on others to do their parts for us to have the good things we enjoy…
No, she would support paying a fair price for the beer. If you read Atlas Shrugged, you would understand that. It’s about people doing what they want with what they have based on what they have earned honestly. It’s not about greed, it’s about perceived value and freedom to choose as well as freedom from being forced to do anything for the sake of those who don’t contribute.
I wouldn’t host; I would collect contributions from all of you and rent a hall.
Then I would tell you that if you like the beer you usually drink, you can have that. Then I would buy a keg of Yuengling, and if you don’t like Yuengling, you’re an antisocial so-and-so and you can lump it. Then y’all could have 43 votes on repealing Yuenglingcare, but never succeed.
Beer would NOT be distributed on the basis of how much you contributed. It would be from each according to his cash on hand, to each according to his thirst.
Then, after a few rounds, we would go invade a neighboring table, explaining to them that we are doing so because our table is exceptional, while we have conclusively determined that theirs is part of the “Tavern of Evil…”
As long as you don’t try to institute some sort of regressive flat-beer policy, I would have no problem contributing some so all could have more.
Yessss… but the thing that compromise and changing your mind have in common is that they both involve listening to, and perceiving, and respecting, the other person’s position, as opposed to being so wrapped up in what you think that you totally dismiss other views.
Of course, you can do all of that and neither compromise nor change your mind. But… you know what I mean. Don’t you?
I play it cool
And dig all jive
That’s the reason
I stay alive
As I live and learn
Dig And Be Dug
Bryan and Harry…
Yes, we’re talking about more than one concept.
This all started with a discussion about politicians, with me saying a politician is not a bad thing to be, that politics is the way human beings work together to get things done on issues they share in common.
Doug was insisting that you can’t do that without sacrificing important principles. Then we got to talking about compromise.
As an illustration that not all that many of us are willing to compromise, Doug said he doesn’t see a lot of minds change here on the blog. Yes, those are two different things. But since we usually don’t actually make decisions here on the blog — we don’t pass bills, or strive for a common position or statement — I guess the best way Doug could think of to illustrate the kind of flexibility that leads to compromises was to look at how often people here change their minds as a result of the discussions that go on here.
What happens here isn’t really the deliberative process, in that it has to result in concerted action. Our purpose is to trade thoughts in a civil and mutually respectful manner. So I think mind-changing was the closest relative to compromise Doug could think of in this context.
But no, they’re not the same thing. People who compromise aren’t changing their minds. Or at least, not necessarily; I suppose sometimes they do…
Once a person changes their mind, it’s no longer compromise, is it? Now they just agree to agree.
There is definitely value in compromise.
I’ve changed my mind here a few times I think.
Here’s my thought on compromise, and this might be somewhat analogous to the political process. My closest experience to dealing with this on a daily basis in real life situations is IEP meetings. My job is to go into the meeting with a proposed plan to best meet the learning needs of the kid. IEP meetings can be contentious. The views of the classroom teachers, therapists, special ed teachers, administration, and parents are not always in alignment on what is best for the kid.
There are definitely times that I have compromised – usually to not go as far as I would have liked in some area, to honor the feelings of a teacher or a parent, as long as I still feel it is moving in the right direction for the kid.
But the thing of it is, that has to be a compromise. All those people are important to the success of the plan, and if they don’t all buy in and feel they have a stake in it, it’s not going to work as well for the kid. There is a separate value to giving everybody a respectful hearing to their views and building a plan that reflects everybody’s position in some way. Somehow it is stronger simply because it is a communal effort. There is a synergy to it. Also, it builds respect among the team members which can also only be helpful for the kid.
It’s not like I’m thinking to myself that my way is best or better or I know better than them and I’m just tolerating them. They know the kid from different settings and kids can be very different in different settings. I have to accept their views as valid for the kid in the setting they see them in. Everybody has a valid position based on their experiences that deserves a respectful hearing.
What good would it do the kid for me to insist on my way, and then I be the only one really working whole heartedly on the goals in the plan, when I see the kid probably the least of anyone involved. If the teachers and parents aren’t in agreement with or (equally important) understand the plan we come up with, they are probably not going to be very earnest in helping implement it.
And that will not help the kid. My goal is to help the kid.
I’m not sure I agree that what you are doing is compromising. Compromising is making concessions in order to reach acceptance. It sounds more like you are revising your plan based on gathering more information from people who may have a better understanding of the student than you do.
Compromising is saying to the other party “I believe my way would result in a better outcome but in order to reach agreement, I will accept some of what you are asking for”.
Put yourself in the parent’s position – that’s the only person who is REALLY compromising. They want the absolute best outcome for their child but must accept less than that due to the reality of resources, etc. The parent has the highest interest and the least control over the process. Your role is much like Bryan’s as a lawyer – your compromise is influenced by factors unrelated to the child – workload, relationships with individual teacher’s, etc.