In light of the controversy over President Obama’s latest unilateral concession on freezing federal employee pay, I’m starting to realize that compromise is a lot like toilets.
Guys will understand this – in a row of urinals in a public bathroom, there are usually three situations:
- No privacy dividers between toilets. You feel a bit awkward, but at least the building saves money by not having to install dividers. There’s no benefit, but also no cost.
- Big privacy dividers between toilets. These are nice because they make it where you can’t even see the person next to you… but they do cost the building money to install. There’s high cost, but also high benefit.
- Medium-sized privacy dividers between toilets. These aren’t big enough to actually afford any privacy, but still cost the building a little bit of money to install. In other words, they give you none of the benefit at some of the cost.
And unfortunately, the realities of politics often force us into the last category of low benefit at medium cost.
In America, we like to pretend that both extremes are wrong, and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle – that if you give and take from each side, you end up with the best of both worlds. In reality, you usually need to go big or go home: each extreme usually has it’s upside and downside, but if you take a little from both, you end up with the worst of both.