Thursday, January 03, 2008

Assessment by Relatives and Absolute

Lately I have been challenged to look at my values and to consider how I assess whether something is good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. The debate of what is good or bad will certainly not be settled here.

Even if one were to debate with a person who agreed to a standard of good and bad, I have found that there is still room for disagreement. That comes from whether the measure of good is done as an absolute measure or as a relative measure. Must the option that is chosen be good in the absolute or is the best possible just going to have to be good enough?

I write these to stimulate thought, and something just went click. In the above paragraph, I used the term “best possible” to illustrate the difference of absolute vs relative. I am starting to think that the essence of the conflict is when one decides that necessity dictates settling for the less than perfect. The course of deciding how to pursue my values is leading me to examine where I accede to necessity. Consistency has been hard to find.

I would like to be absolute in my votes for elected representatives. I want to have people who are in sync with my libertarian social and economic views while maintaining a proactive stance on national defense. While I am wishing, I want a Mustang, current or classic doesn’t matter, for my birthday. Since neither is going to happen, I’ll just pick my way through the candidates and keep my Kia tuned.

In this primary season, there is another route by which necessity sneaks in. It is all well and good that one candidate has your vote, but can he get enough votes to get where he can actually do any good? Do you back the long shot that is everything you want or should you support a more popular candidate that is two steps forward, one step back? Sometimes, if you are clinging to the Perfect Candidate, the only thing you will get is the satisfaction of having sent a message. Just hope that they listen. The flip side is having to swallow the less than perfect things your less than perfect candidate is doing in office. Remember, a pilot following the shallower dive is still going to put the plane in the ground.

Everyone has faced situations that had gone FUBAR through no fault of their own and the best they could do was minimize the damage. The boss from hell would still scream that he should fire you for the damage you failed to prevent. Now, if you were the cause of the FUBAR your ass deserves to get canned. Otherwise, I believe that one should be rewarded for achieving the best possible results. Let the best possible be decided by spirited debate, but I do think that one should avoid allowing class resentment color one’s opinion.

I’ve come the long way around to the idea of executive bonuses in companies that post losses. Provided the executive did not create the FUBAR, then I believe that he should be rewarded for achievements that approach the best possible results. This would have particular justification if the exec were brought into shore up a failing company.

Other judgments about the executive could be made. Everyone could admire the class of an executive who says, “Thanks, but I’ll pass,” when her company is really hurting or laying off workers. Another type of team player would say, “Thanks, but hold onto it until we’re in the black.” That would mean deferred compensation. Lastly would be the one who taker the money right off. She might be entitled by her contract, but it is still mercenary. Then again, the Board would have known she was mercenary.

I often think that a person is defined by then choices in priorities. I see now that the most reliable way to gauge what I value as a high priority is how much I am willing to settle for less than perfect. The more important to me, the less willing I am to compromise. The frictions in life come from dealing with those, namely everyone, whose willingness to compromise doesn’t correspond with mine. If we are individuals, then our priorities will differ.

And that’s just life.

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