Principle and Pragmatism

IN WHAT SEEMS ALMOST an aside, Republican Veep pick Paul Ryan has been dinged for having voted in support of the TARP program. The decision might have been seen at the time, even by principled conservatives, as being pragmatic. The country was in the middle of a presidential election campaign. The Republican President was solidly behind it, putting it forth as necessary and urgent. The leadership in the House of both parties. Support was bipartisan and nearly universal. Ryan was nearly alone in objecting to the notion as violative of his principles.

In that case, so-called pragmatism overcame principle.

Four years on, how’s that workin’ out fer ya, eh, Bunky?

My point, briefly put, is that principles are pragmatic. This is a point that Rush Limbaugh has been making for over 20 years. Wherever and whenever (what he calls) conservatism is tried, it wins, and — I would add — not just in elections, but in “real life,” too. Any enterprise, run honestly on so-called “conservative” principles… Will. Succeed.

Why do you keep scorn-quoting conservative?

Because I don’t believe that the roots of the principles are so much conservative as they are… something else. Conservatism is not a political or economic philosophy, it is a weltanschauung — a way of looking at the world. I believe it is the only logical and sensible way to look at reality, but that’s what it is. Weltanschauung.

But those principles, however you label them, and whatever particular points you include in the cloud of principles, are pragmatic. And the desire to stray from them evinces a discomfort with them. A wish that one can be “released” from adherence to them. And, if a principle is right, it is always right, and seeking to be “released” from adherence to it is self-indulgent at best, and corrupt or evil at worst. And, as has been demonstrated time and time again, evildoers may prosper in the short term, they always — ALWAYS — come to bad ends in the ends. Failure to adhere to principle leads to destruction and death. Why bother?

So failure to adhere to principle is corrupt, what does that say about politicians who urge the putting aside of “mere” principle for the “greater-good” pragmatism?

(Just in case you’ve forgotten — or never knew — I am among those who believe that the so-called “greater good” is always — ALWAYS — in harness with an equal or greater “greater evil.” It is unavoidable. If you do evil for “the greater good,” you are still doing evil. Seeking to excuse it by the number of those benefiting does not excuse it, it merely expands the class of miscreants in cahoots with your “lesser” evil.)

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