Dangers of Compromise

We hear much these days about the urgent need in our government for compromise. Compromise is put forward as an obvious, but often neglected, method for breaking deadlocks and settling disagreements. Much can be said for compromise to settle disagreements. Plea bargains in some criminal cases are forms of compromise. Parties to divorce often compromise to make the separation equitable. Some people say that the best compromises lead to conclusions with which both sides are equally dissatisfied.

Let’s imagine what could have happened if Jesus, when he was tempted by Satan out there in the Judean wilderness, had decided to compromise.

Temptation number one was for Jesus to be able to feed himself by turning stones into bread. Why not compromise? After all, Jesus was going to be out there for forty days and nights, too long to subsist without food. If Satan had been willing to compromise, Jesus could have had some variation of three basic options: He could have turned all the stones to bread, turned half the stones to bread and leave the other half as stones, or he could have turned 50% of each stone to bread. Jesus declined, quoting scripture that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” What’s this? Satan thought they were compromising over bread-from-stones vs. starvation. Jesus realized that Satan was trying to get him to compromise his basic obligation to serve God. So, no deal.

Likewise Satan’s other two temptations: (2) Jesus to jump from the roof of a Temple, and rely on God’s Angels to rescue him; and (3) for Jesus to accept dominion over all the kingdoms he could see from the top of the highest cliff. In response to the second temptation, Jesus could have accepted only an injury but avoided death by having the Angels cushion his fall, or, for temptation 3, he might have accepted reign over only half the kingdoms. Still “no soap.” Jesus didn’t jump. He passed on being “King of the world.” Modern day press would have reported that he had obstinately rejected “reasonable” compromise.

At the very least, when dealing with compromise, it’s essential to know what is actually being negotiated. If, for example, President Obama decided to administratively borrow money against the credit of the United States, it would be a serious error for Congress to engage in discussions about how much he should be allowed to borrow. If the President proposed a relatively high number and Congress held out for a lower amount till they finally settled on a number somewhere between, political operatives and members of the press would be ecstatic over the spirit of compromise that was on display. What would be lost in that scenario is the fact that the whole exercise was unconstitutional. Under the Constitution only Congress can borrow money, so the minute Congress started quibbling over the amount, they would have lost the real negotiations over the Constitution and Separation of Powers.

Ref: http://www.advancingafreesociety.org/2011/07/04/the-debt-ceiling-is-certainly-not-unconstitutional/

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