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The Art of Negotiation: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Winston Churchill is credited with observing that if we don’t learn from our mistakes in the past, we are destined to repeat them. Nowhere is this more evident than a year ago when the 112th Congress nearly brought this country to its knees while trying to “negotiate” the national debt ceiling. Today’s 113th Congressional debates do not appear to be the wiser.


[CLICK HERE to read, “Negotiation Advice for the 112th Congress,” at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, November 18, 2010.]


[CLICK HERE to read, “Debt Ceiling Debate Cost Taxpayers $18.9 Billion, Study Finds,” at The Huffington Post, November 28, 2012.]


[CLICK HERE to read, “First Federal Congress: The Compromise of 1790,” at George Washington University, retrieved December 7, 2012.]


It’s tough to negotiate a foregone conclusion, such as preventing the upcoming fiscal cliff. One side will win but offer parting gifts to the losing party. This is because modern era negotiation techniques require the addition of periphery conditions to make the losing side feel better that it balked and agreed to something it didn’t want.


In some ways, politics is a lot like marriage. Frequently, one spouse will want Chinese food while the other wants a burger, so they compromise and eat at a Mexican restaurant. Neither got what they wanted but they both got something they could live with. And nobody had to give in.


That may not be the best way to run a country.


From all evidence since the November 6 election, it appears the 113th Congress is perpetuating the loop it started last year with no real effort to compromise in one way or another. Each side has offered basically the same deal it tried and failed to push through in previous altercations, but neither is budging. And as we loom closer toward year-end and all the economic doom it brings, it looks less like negotiation and more like a game of chicken.


[CLICK HERE to read, “A Fine Mess,” at The Weekly Standard, December 10, 2012.]


[CLICK HERE to read, “Threading the Needle – Medicaid and the 113th Congress,” at The New England Journal of Medicine, December 5, 2012.]


Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools,” a sentiment that is as timely today as it was back in 1963.


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