October 14th, 2008

Principle in Practice


photo credit: khae_276

A common way to disarm your opponent is to speak favorably of his stance on an issue you’re discussing. This softens the blow when you advance your own position by making your opponent think that you understand and generally agree with their position, but given the added insight or experience you may claim to have, you think that in a specific scenario the implemented policy should differ.

One recent example of this practice is when President Bush discussed the $700 billion bailout on television, in an attempt to convince the American people of the necessity of its implementation. Praising free market capitalism, he then advocated it be stabbed in the back:

I’m a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention. I believe companies that make bad decisions should be allowed to go out of business.

Under normal circumstances, I would have followed this course. But these are not normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of America’s financial system are at risk of shutting down.

The government’s top economic experts warn that, without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold. (George Bush, Sep. 24, 2008)

Note that those who claim to believe one thing, yet openly advocate the opposite, do not believe what they claim to. This is akin to claiming to believe in God, yet openly disavowing his existence; claiming to believe that children should obey their parents, yet not enforcing the rules you’ve set for your own children; claiming to believe that we should help the poor, yet refusing to donate time and money to do so.

Belief without corresponding action is nothing but empty rhetoric designed to flatter and deceive.

Thus did Jesus admonish us to look at people’s fruits—the byproduct of their beliefs. Those who divorce politics from principle favor a self-indulgent practicality that advances their own power or fortune.

Few individuals seem immune to the deceit, thus trusting their leaders when they argue that “this time is an exception”. Principled leaders, however, stand their ground regardless of the consequences. It’s not surprising, then, that scarcely any politicians truly put principle into practice.

13 Responses to “Principle in Practice”

  1. Stephen Palmer
    October 14, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    VERY well said. You’ve done it again. Thanks.

  2. kannie
    October 14, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    A. Men.

  3. Jeremy Ashton
    October 15, 2008 at 6:00 am #

    I wish more of America would wake up the the double-speak which our government leaders constantly use. However – just as you stated – their actions make their intentions perfectly clear. Why do so many voters forget this when our “public servants” campaign for office?

  4. Carissa
    October 16, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    In reaction to the news about our government’s plan to buy shares in private banks, Hugo Chavez said yesterday, “Bush is to the left of me now”.

    Are we being played for fools or does Bush really not understand what he’s doing to our country, as Chavez suggests?

    [Chavez] accused him of simply parroting the words of his aides without understanding the new policies that rely on heavy state intervention.

    “I am convinced he has got no idea what’s going on,” said Chavez

    Either way, yikes.

  5. John C.
    October 17, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    I agree with this. Free-market capitalists who argue that the market is not functioning properly when it fails to do what we expect or want it to do are not actually committed to the notion of a free market.

    Of course, I don’t believe that free-market capitalism is the answer anyhoo.

  6. Connor
    October 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    In an excellent article published today, Accuracy in Media comments thusly on George Bush’s hypocrisy (and the complicity of both current presidential candidates):

    Bush insists that the nations at this summit must “recommit to the fundamentals of long-term economic growth―free markets, free enterprise, and free trade.” He has got to be kidding.

    While mouthing platitudes about free enterprise, Bush has already authorized several socialist-style schemes, including a $700-billion “bailout” of Wall Street, nationalization of mortgage companies, massive subsidies to American International Group (AIG), and the federal government taking ownership stakes in big banks. The estimated cost is already $1.8 trillion―more than $17,000 per American household.

    It is important to note that none of this has stabilized the financial system, although that is what we were told by the media would happen.

    It is also newsworthy that Bush has escaped criticism from McCain and Palin for “spreading the wealth around.” Perhaps this is because McCain voted for this Bush brand of socialism. Of course, so did Obama.

    It is time for the conservative media to hold the Republican ticket accountable for their president’s embrace of socialism.

  7. Stephen Palmer
    October 26, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    It is important to note that none of this has stabilized the financial system, although that is what we were told by the media would happen.

    Connor, you’re so out of touch here — don’t you know it’s just going to take time? (About 10 years, like the Great Depression.) :)

  8. Justin
    December 19, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    And today Bush is playing the same game,
    “If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy”
    He went on to say that “under normal circumstances” he would say that the auto industry gets what it deserves, but “in the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed.”

    Why are these circumstances so un-normal?

  9. Carissa
    December 19, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    Justin- that’s what I’ve been wondering too.

    I believe in the free market, but only during times of economic growth and prosperity.

    Just like:

    I believe in no nation building, unless I see a dictator I don’t like.

  10. Connor
    December 19, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    From Bush’s announcement on the auto bailout:

    This is a difficult situation that involves fundamental questions about the proper role of government. On the one hand, government has a responsibility not to undermine the private enterprise system. On the other hand, government has a responsibility to safeguard the broader health and stability of our economy.

    I’m scratching my head over here, wondering where in the Constitution the federal government was given the charge to safeguard the economy.

    And of course, we have this:

    But these are not ordinary circumstances. In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action.

    When are circumstances ever ordinary? Welcome to the real world, Mr. Bush.

    And lest we wonder about why he’s doing it:

    Unfortunately, despite extensive debate and agreement that we should prevent disorderly bankruptcies in the American auto industry, Congress was unable to get a bill to my desk before adjourning this year.

    This means the only way to avoid a collapse of the U.S. auto industry is for the executive branch to step in.

    So whenever Congress doesn’t do what Bush wants, it’s his responsibility to do it himself. Lovely.

  11. Connor
    January 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    This from Dick Cheney:

    The vice president also defended the administration against criticism that it has backtracked on its principles by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to the private sector after previously lambasting the involvement of ‘big government’ in the economy.

    “When the financial system is threatened, only the federal government can fix it and that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “So even though I’m a conservative, I feel very strongly that we did the right thing by getting active and involved when we did.”

  12. Connor
    January 12, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Looks like Bush doesn’t mind laying his cards on the table now that he’s on his way out:

    “I readily concede I chucked aside my free-market principles when I was told … the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression,” Bush said.

    Ah, vindication.

  13. Connor
    January 12, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    My wife pointed me to this gem from Spencer W. Kimball:

    Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant. So many secular leaders today are like chameleons; they change their hues and views to fit the situation—which only tends to confuse associates and followers who cannot be certain what course is being pursued. Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power.

    Later in that talk he says the following:

    So often, secular leaders rush in to solve problems by seeking to stop the present pain, and thereby create even greater difficulty and pain later on.

    How prophetic…

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