Compromise is often touted as a virtue. But what is usually put upon a pedestal behind a gauzy curtain is a package deal containing two different concepts under the same label. The first concept is the coming to an agreement on details under a shared basic principle, and the second is the destruction of both sets of basic principles to meet in the muck halfway between.

The first concept, hashing out details under a shared basic principle, we can call haggling. An example of this is two traders who want to exchange goods. The basic principle is trade and the details is how much of X to trade for how much Y. Both traders will try to get a good deal, but will only deal if they can get a price which is beneficial to both. This is how markets are made and prices of goods are determined. A second example is two people deciding which movie to watch. The basic principle is friendship and the details are how to express that friendship.

The second concept, the surrender of basic principles to achieve some agreement, is not simply hashing out details. Basic principles are either followed or not followed. They can not be partly followed. An example would be two people deciding on whether or not to initiate force. The basic principle of one person is respect of man qua man. The basic principle of the other is might makes right. There is no way to bridge this unbridgeable gap. Another example would be deciding on whether to follow a moral principle or not, such as honesty. One can either be honest or dishonest, represent reality or try to fake reality, but there is nothing in between. Any deliberate compromise of an accurate representation of reality results in a deliberate faking of reality.

Acting in the first manner, haggling, is not what people refer to when they advocate compromise as a virtue. To do so would be like commandeering a pulpit to preach breathing. No, when compromise is presented as a virtue it is the second concept that is advocated. Compromise anything and everything in the name of "getting along". "Getting along" is held as the only basic principle which can not be compromised. To the compromisers, it doesn’t matter what a man advocates as long as he’s willing to renege on whatever it is to meet the group halfway. Anyone who’s willing to compromise and make some deal, any deal, is OK.

It is this type of compromise that is advocated as a virtue which is evil. Evil is not some powerful force which only an equally powerful force of good can vanquish. Life is not about some epic clash between the mighty forces of good an evil. Evil is impotent and parasitic. Good is living life and flourishing. Evil is finding someone or something which is good and tearing it apart in hopes of gaining something from the pieces. Evil is incompetent. It can only survive through mooching off of the competent. Without good there is no evil, and evil exists only to the extent that the good allow themselves to be preyed upon, to be compromised.

When good and evil compromise, it is evil that wins. Good can only lose by compromising; evil can only exist through the act of compromise. When there is an attempted compromise between honesty and dishonesty, the result is dishonesty. When there is an attempted compromise between justice and injustice, the result is an injustice. When there is an attempted compromise between rationality and irrationality, the result is irrational. When there is an attempted compromise between integrity and not acting in accordance with ones convictions, the result is an act not in accordance with one's convictions.

The advocating of compromise as a virtue follows the standard package deal formula. It holds up the first concept, haggling over details, as an obvious example of a good thing, then equates that with the second concept, the destruction of principles. This bait and switch tactic is a back door to moral relativism, the principle that any system of ethics or principles is just as valid as another. A compromise on a basic principle is the destruction of that principle, and a compromise on a good principle is the lifeblood of evil.

Copyright © 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands