Sunday night I appeared on Bruce Dumont's "Beyond the Beltway" radio program which originated from WUWM. Other panelists included Rob Henken from the Public Policy Forum and Jack Norman from the Institute for Wisconsin's Future.
One of the more interesting topics of discussion was the role of
"moderation" and "cooperation." One of the criticisms of Governor
Walker's reforms is that he should have "compromised." I am not so sure
that criticism works in light of the way in which the Democrats and
public employee unions responded, but I want to address the issue more
Compromise can be a necessary tactic. It is often better to get half
of a loaf than no loaf and compromise is sometimes required to get a
worthwhile thing done. Perfection ought not to be the enemy of the good
and all that.
But that isn't what we're talking about here. The Republicans had the
votes to do what they wanted. The argument for compromise was not that
it was a necessity. The claim is that it would have been good, in and of
itself, for the Walker administration to do less than what it was able
to do and thought to be desireable. In this view, "compromise" is as
much an end as a means. (A similar argument was made by Republicans
concerning what became ObamaCare when the Democrats still had 60 votes
in the Senate.)
I wouldn't dismiss this out of hand. There is something to be said
for incremental change and for acting in a way that minimizes public
discord. When there are many issues and when political fortunes are
bound to change, compromise can have a value beyond the issue on which
compromise is reached.
But not always. You can't elevate compromise to a principle that
trumps the desire for comprehensive reform whenever that reform is
opposed by a vocal minority. To do so does not simply enable "things to
get done." It ensures that certain kinds of things - fundamental changes
- will never be done.
Sometimes existing arrangements need to be substantially altered.
People with a vested interest in the status quo will not like it and a
certain amount of civic pain may be a unavoidable cost of moving
Getting back to the particular case of the Walker reforms, my own
view is that restricting collective bargaining was such a case. Allowing
government to jettison the inflexibility that results in public
services costing more than they should and being less effective than
they can be, e.g., seniority rules, lock step compensation, cumbersome
work rules, tenure, etc., was a critical. This is particularly so in
I understand that other well-intentioned and intelligent people
differ. But appealing to compromise as principle won't resolve that
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin home page