Giving Compromise a Bad Name

Submitted to Liberty Magazine, January 17, 2001..


Robert H. Nelson ("Electoral Theology," February) notes that politics is "morphing into religion," as evidenced by the recent election, which pitted supporters of Gore's absolutist environmental religion against other, more traditional "visions of religious and moral truth." He notes that as this trend continues, we can expect politics to get nastier and uglier, since "true believers" would rather fight than comprimise. He (humorously) recommends that maybe its time to separate the combatants, suggesting that the inhabitants of Gore's geographically small pockets of support (urban areas) consider secession from the geographically large sea of Bush country.

While I appreciate the humor of Nelson's article and agree that religious conviction sometimes makes political comprimise more difficult, I'd argue that this is a good thing. The only way to effectively defend liberty (along with individualism, science, progress and many other western values) is with the aid of religious conviction. These values, after all, emerged as fruits of Christian western civilization (notwithstanding multiculturalist myths to the contrary). Remember also that most major advances for liberty came under conditions of "nasty and ugly" religious conflict involving "true believers" who were unwilling to compromise.

The fact that Gore defends his ideas in a quasi-religious way likely indicates a shrewd recognition on his part of the past effectiveness of this approach (although he and his party have long since jettisoned the actual religious faith historically associated with the approach) and a desire to distance himself from the apparently faithless and obviously lecherous Clinton.

The key to achieving cooperation between groups holding different visions of moral and religious truth is, of course, limiting state power to those few functions the necessity of which are beyond dispute (cf. the constitution). The solution most definitely will NOT be found by banishing religious and moral conviction from the public square, which will (continue to) have the effect of bolstering a secular (i.e. pagan), collectivist and cynical (i.e. might makes right) political ethic of the type that always has and always will eventually result in a regime of unlimited power wielded without mercy or restraint.

Steve Sawyer
Fountain Hills, AZ

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