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Szalapski

Compromise (TVoS 7)

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In TVoS 7, Rand says that generally no compromise is needed or is even good.  "Offering a burglar a single teaspoon of one's silverware would not be a compromise, but a total surrender."

Really?  A total surrender?  Seems to me a total surrender would be to give the burglar everything he wants.  If a burglar is coming to my house and threatening force, I could resist with all my might, or, presuming he wants only things of high value and has no interest in harming me, give him all those things knowing that insurance will cover it and that I will preserve my life and safety.  I will be out a significant deductible and have had a unsettling experience, but the party most harmed will be the insurance company--who has already contracted with me to take that risk.  Meanwhile, the compromise I reach is: my family is not physically harmed, and I do not attempt to do any harm (in self-defense) onto the burglar.

So this is what Rand objects to: the above scenario is not a free exchange by two rational parties.  I am not so sure that we can cleave such a stark dichotomy between "irrational" and "rational", between "free" and "forced".  No doubt the burglar believes it to be rational, but Rand would call him a unthinking brute.  Nonetheless, I must deal with such a person if this scenario comes up.

And so I must deal with everyone I meet.  Some are slightly irrational and others are more irrational.  One person may be a trader who gives me value for value but wants me affirm my belief in a cause, religion, or ideology that I might disagree with; another person might be a burglar or a con man with whom I must resist, avoid, or confront.  There are all varying degrees of irrationality and surely no one is 100% rational even if they are nowhere near as irrational as the burglar.  Still, with the trader, I compromise, surrendering a little.  With the burglar, I surrender a great deal.

So this is both surrender and compromise, isn't it?  Rand says that I am recognizing his right to my property.  I think I am simply pleading "no contest"--I recognize his might over me, not his right, and I would fight him if I could hope to prevail without harming myself, but since I cannot, I look for a "compromise"--certainly some degree of capitulation, but not giving up everything.

Rand then claims there is nothing to stop the burglar from returning for the rest.  Maybe I could steel myself against it if I think that likely--weapons, security systems, surveillance, dogs, etc.  But most burglars never return to the same targets.  Perhaps Rand meant "burglar" as a symbol for the greater looters and moochers of society, but in the immediate context of a literal burglar, I don't see him likely returning, as I have not established a pattern of total capitulation, but only been taken for vulnerable at one point in time.

Pretending to share my employers ideas "is a compromise" to Rand, and I ought not do so.  But I must speak for my employer when I represent him, and I must not allow my own desires, however rational, to overwhelm my contracted duty to uphold my employer's slightly irrational ideas, right?  Say I think that my company, of which I am a minority shareholder, should not beholden itself to donate a strict percentage of its profits to charity, but my employer's official position is to donate 5%.  It would be wrong of me to do anything but "toe the company line" in representing the company's position to others.  I shouldn't even say "I disagree with it" in any official capacity--but this is a good compromise, I think.  

I suppose I do not understand the distinction between falling short of a desire and surrendering a higher value for a lesser one.  If I give up ten dollars for a cheeseburger, I presumably have judged the value of the food as higher than that of the money.  If I withdraw my opposition to a government expenditure for the benefit of being accepted by a certain clique, I have judged the value of the acceptance higher than my abstract governmental ethics.  What is difference--nothing but what is the objectively better value?  I would like to save some of that ten dollars, maintain my outward ethics, get a cheeseburger, and be accepted by the clique--but I can't have it all, so I compromise.  My decision may be objectively right or perhaps there will be flaws in it.

In the end, I do think on matters of morality and personal choice, we do indeed too often compromise or surrender, but I am not convinced that any hint of such compromise in any situation is evil.  I must by and large think independently and avoid being pressured into adopting the slightly irrational views of others, but refusing ever to do so strikes me as unnecessarily extreme.

Edited by Szalapski

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