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Why Not Compromise?
Why is it that rather than celebrate the values of conflict resolution, tolerance and deal-making, which make our advanced societies function so effectively, our favourite stories continue to be about zero-sum conflicts that are impossible to resolve peaceably? … I suspect the answer lies in what we subconsciously want our taste in fiction to say about us. Celebrating the Na’vi allows us to signal how much we value loyalty and justice. Denigrating Melbourne Airport allows us to show our suspicion of greedy and powerful people. In real life, when defending our stated values requires that we make serious sacrifices whether or not we are likely to win, we sensibly value the opportunity to compromise. But when a fictional character will do all the fighting for you, why compromise on anything?
I think he might be roughly right. But why wouldn’t finding good deals and balancing compromises well be ideals we would want to celebrate? When there are no costs to yourself, why aren’t you itching to go all out and celebrate the most extravagant tales of successful trading and extreme sagas of mutually beneficial political compromise? I think because there is no point in demonstrating that you will compromise. … It’s often good to look like you won’t easily compromise, so that other people will try to win you over with better deals. … If you somehow convince me that you’re the kind of person who would die fighting for their magic tree, I’ll probably try to come up with a pretty appealing deal for you before I even bring up my interest in checking out the deposits under any trees you have.
Yes, it might be good for your group to seem reluctant to compromise, but how is good for you to support such a group reluctance? That seems to be more about signaling group loyalty. The people in your group who most want compromise are those also tied to other groups with which your group has conflicts. By opposing compromise, you signal you have weaker conflicting ties. This loyalty signaling theory better explains why we often oppose compromise that is clearly in our group interest.