Anthony DiStefano concluded his Sept. 27 column with the claim that we must all agree that there is a man-made global warming/climate crisis and that we should settle disagreements by compromise. I don’t deny that there is evidence of some global warming caused by man but I do question the veracity of – always disproven later – catastrophic claims. Although I don’t agree that there is a climate crisis (an excuse for political power lusters to further cripple the economy), it is DiStefano’s recommendation for compromise that prompts me to write this.
Earlier in his column he approves of a statement made by a politician years ago: “Sometimes it is necessary to put our principles aside and do what’s right.” He then implicitly blames Herbert Hoover's principles for creating the Great Depression and implies that Franklin D. Roosevelt rescued us from the depression by compromising his principles. I dispute his implications on at least two grounds: first that his history is wrong and second that principled politicians are a rarity.
Economists have shown that the Great Depression was caused by inflation of the money supply and only ended when WWII ended and all the workforce that had been producing material to be expended in the war turned to producing goods for domestic consumption.
Both Hoover and FDR were pragmatists who acted on expediency rather than on principle. In common usage, a principle refers to a fundamental idea – one on which many less abstract ideas depend. In this sense one might say that Hoover believed in the principle that government should be run like a business and that FDR believed that all should be free of want. Because the purpose of principles is to guide one's action to yield a good life, a more precise meaning of principle is that it is a general truth on which other truths depend.
Hoover’s and FDR’s “principles” were not principles in the strict sense because they are not true. It is not true that the government should be run like a business. Businesses operate by trade whereas governments use force. And it is not possible that all should be free from want. An important indicator that something is not strictly a principle is the fact that it cannot be practiced consistently – which is why people like DiStefano believe that life requires compromise on principles.
The truth is that life requires the identification of true principles and that such principles should never be compromised.