With friends like this…   2 comments

as published on examiner.com

This week Freshman House member Jeff Landry (R-LA) displayed political courage and an understanding of the irrationality that lies in ethical compromise. Landry chose not to provide President Obama moral sanction and refused to  join his GOP colleagues in their sit down with President Obama over the federal budget.

Congressman Landry articulated the reasons for his decision, saying

I don’t intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt

Understanding that the GOP have  the rational, moral,  and practical arguments in their favor and have nothing to gain from talks with Obama, Landry gave further clarity for his rejection of the Obama invite, saying

I’m not going to the White House to negotiate with myself

Refusing to provide moral cover for the President, Landry declared he would not

partake in his [Obama’s] political grandstanding that will ultimately do nothing for debt reduction and job creation

Landry clearly understands  a philosophical premises  championed by philosopher Ayn Rand:  in any collaboration between two or more parties holding opposite principles. it is the irrational side which will win.

In the meantime, back in May,  Times Union Editor cum wannabe ethicist Rex Smith displayed the philosophical root of ethical compromise, the idea that there is a fundamental breach between the practical and the moral. He also displayed the ethical evasiveness and the  inevitable smuggling in of moral premises that is part and parcel of Pragmatism’s techniques.  Pragmatism is of course  a political theory that has neither morality not practicality on its side. 

Smith has long been a champion of political compromise in the name of  expediency, of practical solutions, and for the sake of finding common ground in order to get things accomplished.

In his May sixteenth Editor’s blog post Smith demonstrates the flawed reasoning that inevitably leads to such political theater of the GOP/President Obama budget sit down, which Congressman Landry wisely chose to sit out.

In considering the decision making process of the State Legislature,  Smith rhetorically ponders:

will they weigh issues on practical grounds? On moral principles? On political terms?

Answering his own question, Smith says that

Maybe, though, different issues require varying decision points.

Smith displays the thinking of a tried and true pragmatist. He hints that there is a natural dichotomy between the practical and the moral. At the end of his piece, which we will get to in a moment, Smith still suggests that such a distinction does not in reality exist, stating

we should expect lawmakers to think practically and to act morally in approaching every decision

From the pending gay marriage bill to the Governor’s proposed property tax cap; from the pending ethics bill to proposed rent regulations to naming a state vegetable, Smith nonetheless   assumes such distinctions exist. More precisely, he seems to hope his readers will read into these issues just such a dichotomy.

Smith smuggles in the hope that his readers will come down handily on the practical end of the equation, while simultaneously smuggling in his  planted moral premises.

Smith regards the decision over the pending marriage bill as an ethical question, but surreptitiously reminds his readers that the law

could yield hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity yearly

This immediately begs the question:  if this is a moral issue, why mention the practical side, particularly when Smith immediately follows up with

It should be decided in the context of what people think is right.

Likewise on the property tax cap question Smith ponders the practical/moral dichotomy.  Smith acknowledges  the practical, political fact that “Polls suggest more than two-thirds of New York voters”, yet chooses to  smuggle in for readers his moral assumptions that

the main beneficiaries of property tax revenues — don’t exist mainly to efficiently produce more wealth. Education is a long-term investment. Squeezing schools now may limit opportunities for New Yorkers who aren’t yet old enough to vote

Presumably his readers are to come to the conclusion that a cap on taxes is somehow a detriment to “the common good’ of those not yet old enough to vote. Presumably the interests of the taxpayer at a time of an economic recession  must take a back seat to the needs of “the kids”. We must naturally regard  such investments as, as the President puts it,   “winning the future”.

What then is to come of the tax payers of New York in the extraordinarily difficult present?

Smith’s techniques  whisper in their unspoken premises:  tAw, lets not be so cold or calculating and consider the practical,  when there are more pressing things like the good of the kids to worry about. We must be pragmatic, after all.

What is to come of the kids if the parents, enduring ever higher taxes, are unable to buy school clothes or to make decent lunches?  No answer is forthcoming. Likely such sacrifices are to be expected in such hard times.  The schools have got to pay the bills after all.

In both the marriage argument and in the tax cap quandary, Smith’s moral premise is to be accepted as self-evident. This despite the fact that in each the allegedly moral clearly collides with the supposedly practical.

Smith meanwhile insists at the end of his article that legislators act as if there is no dichotomy between practical and ethical.

Smith hopes throughout that his readers will presume one —  and will come down hard and fast on the side of ethical absolutes.

Said absolutes, for Smith,  of course being the “public good” of gay marriage and more funding for public education.

Notice that both of these concrete political issues have the same moral absolute smuggled in, the idea that such ‘difficult choices’ are so altruistic as to be beyond reproach.

Whether Smith is genuinely aware of it, and whether he  believes it or not, there in fact is no breach between the practical and the moral.

Decisions on ethical issues, just as in practical ones,

should indeed be

as simple as walking and chewing gum at the same time.

If the decisions are not easy and simple to make , a flaw in one’s reasoning has occurred.

If one finds that a particular decision creates  a conflict of interest between what one might consider  practical and what one percieves as  ethical one must, as Ayn Rand stated, “check your premises”.

In the political issues raised by Smith, as in all issues, the first principle one must keep in mind is that in any decision-making process there can be no compromise on ethical principles.

Can or should a collaboration exist between two or more parties with competing ethical premises, such as in the case with our State Legislature? Can a compromise between parties be reached when each side operates on opposing ethical premises?

One must rather ask: “which side will benefit from such a compromise or collaboration?”

Who will benefit and who will lose , particularly in the midst of a deep recession, if one seeks collaboration between those who desire  open-ended tax increases so as to line government coffers and those who understand that one can only pay so much before one reaches one’s limit?

Who will benefit and who will lose  if those who seek a means to legislate their way into fairness and tolerance and those who recognize the fact that moral acceptance must not be forced attempt to compromise with one another?

Down on the Potomac, Congressman Landry understands that collaboration and compromise was not possible between a GOP seeking an end to out of control government spending and a President lacking in practical knowledge of economics and in any desire to curtail the glut and greed of Washington bureaucrats.

Congressman Landry recognized that this President’s stock in trade is moral intimidation, not rational argumentation.

Landry knew that no collaboration and no compromise was possible, and that only the President would gain if the GOP arrived to merely chat amongst themselves.

It is high time that Albanians come to recognize that,  in New York  as well, no collaboration can or should  occur between opposing principles in the State Legislature. No compromise is possible in our divided and deadlocked  Legislature.

It is time for both sides to end the endless concrete, practical political policy discussions.  it is time instead for each side to lay out for all to hear the moral premises informing their policies, and to validate their premises.  Only when they’ve laid out and validated these moral premises can we determine whether they can be implemented practicaly, in the policies on the table.

As it was in the nineties it’s the economy, stupid, because it’s the spending.

As it has always been  it’s the spending because it’s the values, stupid.

We are all adults, we must begin to make adult decisions.

The first decision should and  must be to allow no room for leaders to surreptitiously  smuggle in their ethics in the name of practicality.

when they do, they rarely provide for us legislation that is either practical or moral.



Posted June 4, 2011 by cchashadenough in Philosophy

2 responses to “With friends like this…

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  1. Let us not forget the Constitut9ion is called “The Great Compromise”.
    One must also realize [which Obama & dems do not] that compromise is meeting in the middle, a situation where each side is equally unhappy with the result but can live with it. Compromise in Obama’s terms is getting the other side [US!] to agree with him.

  2. Hello,

    I’m the Tea Party editor at Before It’s News. Our site is a People Powered news platform with over 4,000,000 visits a month and growing fast.

    We would be honored if we could republish the Had Enough US blog rss feed in our Tea Party category. Our readers need to read what American patriots like you have to say.

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    sean [at] beforeitsnews [dot] com.

    Thank you

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