Sunday, November 22, 2009

Compromise and Rotten Compromises

Since I'm hip-deep in a series of posts about the Compromise of 1850 and the Great Compromiser himself, I thought it was appropriate to report that I just ran across a reference (at Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog) to a book entitled On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. Here's the description:
When is political compromise acceptable - and when is it fundamentally rotten, something we should never accept, come what may? What if a rotten compromise is politically necessary? Compromise is a great political virtue, especially for the sake of peace. But, as Avishai Margalit argues, there are moral limits to acceptable compromise even for peace. But just what are those limits? At what point does peace secured with compromise become unjust? Focusing attention on vitally important questions that have received surprisingly little attention, Margalit argues that we should be concerned not only with what makes a just war, but also with what kind of compromise allows for a just peace.

Examining a wide range of examples, including the Munich Agreement, the Yalta Conference, and Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, Margalit provides a searching examination of the nature of political compromise in its various forms. Combining philosophy, politics, and history, and written in a vivid and accessible style, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises is full of surprising new insights about war, peace, justice, and sectarianism.

I haven't read the book (and almost certainly won't) and know nothing about the author. But if you read it and apply the author's analysis to the Compromise of 1850, let me know.

For my thoughts on whether the Compromise of 1850 was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, see here

About the illustration:
An illustrated sheet music cover for an abolitionist song composed by Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. The song is dedicated to antislavery editor Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, "As a mark of esteem for his intrepidity in the cause of Human Rights." It is illustrated with an allegory of the triumph of abolitionism. In a landscape a railroad car, "Immediate Emancipation," is drawn by a locomotive named "Liberator" and followed by another locomotive, the "Repealer," which pulls a second car "Liberty Votes and Ballot Boxes." The "Liberator" was the name of a prominent antislavery newspaper published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison. "Repealer" probably refers to the Irish insurgent movement in support of the repeal of the Legislative Union, a cause with which many abolitionists in the United States were allied. Flags bearing the names of two other abolitionist publications, the "Herald of Freedom" and "American Standard" (i.e., Rogers's" National Anti-slavery Standard), fly from the "Emancipation" car. The trains approach a bend in the track, nearing a station where a number of people gather to welcome them. Beyond the station is a church. In the distance two other trains, one marked "Van" and the other "Clay," crash and their passengers flee. These allude to Democrat and Whig presidential hopefuls Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay. The reference to Van Buren suggests that the music-sheet appeared before the Democratic convention in May [1844], when James K. Polk, not Van Buren, received the party's presidential nomination.

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