For the last several weeks, I have been poking around in the nooks and crannies of the Hager Hacienda in an effort to eliminate clutter. Boxes of outdated and unused books have been donated to the community library. Clothes went to the drop-off box. Old dishes were delivered to a local charity. Worn-out linens went to the pet shelter. An old stereo and other gizmos were delivered to the electronics drop-off. Paint and other household chemicals went to the chemical waste facility. I still have one load of miscellaneous stuff for Goodwill. It is good to simplify your life!
But some things aren’t so simple. I am thinking of the challenges that face our nation. Oh, we love to hear to hear politicians who spout off with simple solutions. Michelle Bachman would build a fence along the entire southern border of our nation. Herman Cain said stupid people are running our country. Rick Perry would eliminate three cabinet level agencies. He just can’t remember which ones. Actually, most things promised by presidential candidates are not even within the purview of their authority, because they would require legislative action.
Republicans want to eliminate regulatory red tape to create a better business (and employment) climate. Dems want to support government safety net programs. Congress is deadlocked, giving the president and easy target to blame for the mess and his lack of leadership. No one is willing to do anything politically risky as everything waits until after an election that is a full year away while we teeter on the brink of extreme unemployment, insolvency, and general decline. Our government is the very picture of deadlock and dysfunction, while our officials (our employees) “fiddle while Rome is burning.”
The issues we face are incredibly complex and governmental “solutions” are famous for engaging the law of unintended consequences. So, legislative approaches that worth a damn will require serious research and hearing from a lot of different voices.
Recently I heard a fascinating interview on C-Span with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia. When asked about our government’s gridlock. He replied that the founding Fathers intended that it would be very difficult to pass legislation, so that the minority perspective would be considered.
Lawmaking requires negotiation. Negotiation requires compromise. What is not happening in Washington? Negotiation and compromise!
These are bad words to purists, but purists are not realists and they tend to vilify anyone with a different position. Should we compromise your values? No, because that would make us hypocrites, untrue to yourselves. But one of those values should be, respect for all people, even your political opponents. Another one should be openness to new ideas. How many times would legislation be improved, if these values were in play? So, negotiation and compromise does not mean that you compromise your values. It means that you probably won’t get everything you want in a piece of legislation, but that it is a step in the right direction.
Actually, the legislative process happens to be like the rest of life.
Originally posted December 7, 2011.