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Correct Principles And The Extra Mile

I have thought a lot about the term “correct principles” since Charles Buell and I had our somewhat tedious exchange on the subject.

You can read it here – http://activerain.com/blogsview/922326/Is-your-belief-a-Bully

And you might as well, no one else did… But I digress.

A very important question Charles asks is, outside of religious contexts, how one goes about “sorting out exactly what constitutes 'correct principles'?"

Our word “principle” comes from the Latin words “principium”, meaning “source,” and “princeps,’ literally meaning “he who takes first place.” We derive many words from those etymological roots. The principal is the source of a loan. The prince is first in line for the throne. And so on. A principle is the foundation, a basis, on which other things are built. Principles are the first considerations.

What, then, are the correct things to take first place, to be considered first, outside of the religious context?

If I am going to build a house, and if I do not employ correct principles and give it a proper and strong foundation, the weight of the house will cause the foundation to crack or sink or move or leak. The house therefore is not founded on correct principles of proper engineering. It might last many years, but other problems will creep in and it will not be as good a house as it could otherwise be. It cannot last.

If I do not provide this house with proper materials and angles and connections which shed or divert or collect or eliminate water, I will have employed an incorrect principle of physics – kinetic force and gravity and fluid dynamics. My house will be destroyed with rot and mold. It cannot last.

If I do not provide this house with properly-sized materials – lumber, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, and so forth – I will have employed incorrect principles and nothing will function as it should. If I do not utilize professional techniques in my construction, it will not only look less attractive, but be poorly done. My house will be uncomfortable, or break under load stresses, or burn, or flood. It cannot last.

If I build a deck or addition and do not use a mathematical technique to make it square (Mr. Pythagoras’s theorem – AA + BB = CC) and do not sink its columns deep enough, it will not be strong, or aesthetic to look at. It cannot last.

What if I try to teach correct principles but not to their fullest. Suppose I try to teach my child to tie his own shoe laces? The correct principles of self sufficiency, self esteem, even mathematics, would be evident would they not? But what if to finish the knot, I teach this child to tie a double-half hitch instead of a bow. Not only would the knot slip, but it would be difficult to untie. A proper bow is a square knot, which is strong enough not to slip easily and can be untied with one pull. I have taught a correct principle, but one not fully applied.

This is what I meant in my last post that if we teach someone correct principles they can govern themselves.

You can tell a correct principle because it lasts!

There can be further secular application.

Having the benevolence to give someone a fish when they are hungry is a correct principle – but not fully applied. What if in addition to the fish, I teach that person how to fish? Then that person can be self governing. It is something that lasts.

But what if, under the guise of benevolence, I give someone money when they need. It is a kind thing to do. But what if there are no strings attached, or no end in sight? What then? Would they not come to expect that money, regularly and on time, and have less of a tendency to go out and learn how to provide their own money? Would they not feel entitled to that money, perhaps generation after generation? Is that a correct principle that lasts?

But what if, under the guise of political benevolence, I create a “community development” plan, or later a “community reinvestment” plan (!) so many people can buy their own houses? And I make it easy to get as much money as it takes to buy the house of someone’s dreams. I have said, “Here, now you can run before you have learned to walk!” These people have not learned correct principles of saving, or having enough income, or budgeting, or making regular long-term installment payments, or being honest in contractual arrangements, or a host of other principles. They are not ready. Is that a correct principle that lasts?

But what if, I make it worse.  What if I force banks to discard their former rules for lending, rules which have been developed over centuries, and bend those rules, to lend without proper income verification or identity, offering below-market (subsidized), or 0%!, interest rates, or even documentation? And what if I create agencies to buy up this bad paper, bundle it, and resell its derivatives as investment-grade securities? And force insurance companies to insure these huge (non)assets? Is that a correct principle that lasts?

But what if, under the guise of political benevolence, I want to do lots and lots of which I think are "good" things, particularly for the “poor” who cannot afford them on their own? But in order to do these "good" things I must impose ever-increasing taxes and fees on the most productive and transfer this money to the unproductive? More and more would likely become unproductive and feel entitled to those “good” things! Eventually the productive would become less productive, having less money or incentive for production, and more people would be taking these taxes than actually pay them. Is that a correct principle that lasts?

I could go on and on and on. So where does the extra mile come in? Under Roman rule, a subject was required by law to carry a soldier’s sword or shield for a Roman mile, or 1,000 paces, upon request. There were severe penalties if one did not comply. Subjects were, essentially, slaves to the Roman authority.

Jesus suggested that when so requested, a subject should carry the load not only one mile, but a second as well. But why would anyone do that?

During the second mile, the legal obligation has already been satisfied. The load can be returned to the Roman authority at any time. In this second mile, who then is master, and who is slave?

This is not a religious concept. It is a foundation. It can be the source of much that follows.

Not all correct principles are religious, but are they not founded in ever-lasting concepts? Religion has to come into play.

Jesus was, and is, all about the correct principle of self mastery. Of governing oneself. Of self discipline (disciple?). Of teaching and learning and applying correct principles because they last. Of learning obedience to these correct principles (He has given many guidelines!). He offers this way because it lasts.

Properly applied, He says they can last forever.

When we see the application of incorrect principles, under the guise of benevolence, or stimulus, or great society, or philosophy, or whatever, the understanding that they are incorrect and cannot last, the belief that they are incorrect and cannot last, and standing up to them, is not bullying.

It is our duty – that is if we want our society to last…

And standing up to them is, in fact, kind and loving.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 16 commentsJay Markanich • February 09 2009 07:13AM


Jay - I think you hit it on the head, principles are foundations, and, just like behaviour, they can be good or bad (although we tend to describe those with bad behaviour as unprincipled, it only means theirs are opposed to ours). Jesus was proposing a form a lagniappe, a giving of a bit extra, beyond what was expected or contracted. Personally, I think that is a good principle.

Posted by Mike Saunders (Lanier Partners) over 11 years ago

Hi Mike - some bad behaviors are unprincipled, but some people act badly not knowing it.  I have not heard the word "lagniappe," and thank you for it!  I will learn more...  it must be Greek, and if so, like agape, is must be a contextually good word - and principle!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 11 years ago

This is masterfully written and explained.  I have several people who need to read this and will get a link to it ASAP. Thanks Jay!

Posted by Susan Gonzalez Faux painting murals atlanta (Marietta Mural & Decorative Design) over 11 years ago


Good blog even if it was inspired by that crazy guy Charlie. For a guy who is highly into gutters, he can put out some pretty philosophical posts.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 11 years ago

Jay - Well put!  This would be a good read for someone who doesn't really know who they are on the political spectrum - liberal or conservative.  I tend to believe that most people would agree with these points - after all they make so much sense!  But then I'm an analytical person and don't make alot of emotional decisions, not everyone thinks like that.


Posted by Brian & Marie Spray, Frisco TX Realtors (www.DFWAreaRealtors.com - Action Realty Group) over 11 years ago

Jay - learned a new word today, but I'm afraid it isn't one that is going to pop up in regular conversation, thanks (I personally don't have many regular conversations).  I agree with your statements concerning our present political hierarchy. The politicians du jour feel that we must adopt a segment of our society, but only if we are successful. Therefore, well I really don't have to finish the thought.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 11 years ago

Jay -lagniappe is actually a cajun word with it's origination in Spanish (I think). It means just a little bit extra.

Posted by Mike Saunders (Lanier Partners) over 11 years ago

Susan - thank you!  Hurry, Susan, hurry!!

Steven - next time I visit my son in Seattle (which appears to be every three years or so... last time was the Redskin/Seahawk playoff game) we will have to get together.  I have come to really enjoy your posts and the Gutter Man.  If you google Gutterman Services, what may come up is a friend of mine in Sterling Virginia.  He cleans and installs gutters.  Great company.  You and Charlie are great company too...

Brian and Marie - sometimes when things are presented in a commen sensical fashion, they might be liberal or conservative or neither.  I am conservative politically but liberal in economic theory.  An economic liberal is very much a political conservative...  figure that one out...

Jack - "Buell" is a new word to you?

Jack - P.s.  The political hierarchy is not trying to "adopt" a portion of society, but want to lure 51% into voting for them all the time.  Hi jack might be a better word than adopt, but that is just me.  Control, control, control my man!

Mike - heah 'tis:

" Lagniappe refers to a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (such as a 13th beignet when buying a dozen), or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure."[1] The word is used in Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Eastern Oklahoma, Southern Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, southern and western Mississippi, the gulf coast of Alabama, and parts of eastern Texas. It was also once in common usage by antiquarian booksellers, without regional limitation, and is still used by more old-fashioned members of that tribe.[citation needed] The word entered English from Louisiana French, in turn derived from the American Spanish phrase la ñapa ('something that is added' ).

The term has been traced back to the Quechua word yapay ('to increase; to add'). In Andean markets it is still customary to ask for a yapa when making a purchase. The seller usually responds by throwing in a little extra. Although this is an old custom, it is still widely practiced today in Louisiana. This custom is also widely practiced in southeast Asia. Street vendors, especially vegetable vendors, are expected to throw in a few green chillies or a small bunch of cilantro with a decent purchase. The Punjabi term for this is "choonga". "

Interestingly, I actually speak Quechua (well, a dialect there in called Quichua) and used to use the word "yapay" in the market all the time!  They would laugh at me upon learning that a gringo could be so locally savvy...  Dickering there is a common business concept.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 11 years ago

OK Jay---great post and not much to not agree with:) However (you knew that was coming didn't you?), now I am going to make you define "lasts."  Throughout the ages people's idea of what lasts usually fits a time frame they can wrap their minds around.  It is usually only in "retrospect" we get even a glimpse of whether the principle has endurance.  It is pretty obvious that in the "physical" world nothing lasts "forever."  There is nothing in my opinion (other than "beliefs"----which are learned) to support the notion that anything lasts forever in the "non-physical" realms.  And this is where we are required to start taking things on faith----or accept that some things are just  "great mysteries."  My mind has been there----now I like the experience of not having to have an answer.  For me, the fact that there are some things I cannot grasp does not motivate me to grab onto "just anything."  History has taught me that there are answers to impossible questions---they just haven't been discovered yet.  Can you imagine what ah AHA! Moment it must have been when human beings first discovered the connection between sex and pregnancy? Surprisingly in the total span of human evolution it was not that long ago.  Now----if we want to talk about a species that "last"----we have to talkdinosaurs.  Humans are just a blip compared to dinosaurs.  To live IN the questions----that is life.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 11 years ago

Hey Charlie - "lasts" means that there are no bubbles.  The clock doesn't run out.  Once my son knows how to tie his shoes, it stays with him.  It lasts.  AA x BB will always equal CC in a 30, 60, 90 triangle.  It lasts - a 90 degree corner will be proven square each time a deck is built.  Pythagoras's theorem was not self evident.  Theorems are only proved correct by a chain of reasoning.  But once proved, it lasts.

Solid geometry may change a plane geometry theorem.  For instance, the shortest distance between two lines is a straight line in plane geometry, a theorem, but NOT on a globe.  But both are correct principles, in their given context.  That last.

Some things we think might last do not.  I remember a terrific story about Dr. Einstein.  A graduate student was reviewing a test question and said something like, "Dr. Einstein, this is the same question you asked last year! Why are you asking it again this year?"  Einstein answered, "Because since last year the answer has changed."  Science changes because what we think we know to be true is not proved over and over forever.  A new discovery here or there, and the paradigm shifts.  But not so with forever principles.

Copernicus said that the sun is the center of the universe and that the earth rotates around it.  At the outset, that was a huge paradigm shift, but has been proven since over and over.  That was not something they wrapped their minds around then and then only.  His formulas have proven correct to within 1 day every 1,460.

"Not much to agree with" -- really?

I think I heard once where the lasts shall be firsts and the firsts shall be lasts.  Or something like that...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 11 years ago

Jay, I said not much to NOT agree with----most of what you said I do agree with----maybe not quite for the same reasons---but that doesn't matter.  Two people can often drive in totally different directions to get to the same place.  The kinds of principles you are talking about do last----and stand the test of time for a long time-----but forever?  That in itself is impossible to know and who of us can say that something yet unheard of won't surplant those long standing principle.  "Forever" places a giant "period" at the end of something----I just like leaving the door open.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 11 years ago

Just an additional note to your "If you give a man a fish" thought. If you teach him to teach others how to fish, that is truly the best benefit to society from a welfare perspective. It teaches self-reliance in its purest form. Well-stated commentary, Jay. Thanks for the insights!

Posted by Lanna Broyles over 11 years ago

No Jay they want us to adopt them.  Sorry, I have enough kids.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 11 years ago

Jay, A well written and thought provoking piece.

I think you are speaking of different things when you say the shortest distant between two points is a straight line, a mathematical fact, and ethical principals. Many mathematical or especially scientific facts have been proved over the course of time to be wrong. Nothing last forever, not even the stars and the universe. It will all end some day. But there are ethical principles that do endure. Why? Because we as a people understand they are "right". They span all cultures and societies because they are "universal". I think once you get past these principles everything else becomes less concrete more fluid.

Who knows how society will behave in a thousand years. As the world we live in changes so then may our principles. Hopefully it does not effect those enduring ethical principles, but who can predict.

Charlie, "Two people can often drive in totally different directions to get to the same place." I have for a long time employed that principal. I am results person, how you get there isn't always as important as arriving. By encouraging others to take a different route it can afford opportunity for discovery. How many cliches do we have for " the path less traveled".

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 11 years ago

James - agreed, my man!  Ethical, mathematical, or whatever, a principle, is a principel, is a principle.  As to science, that's what I meant in the "Hey Charlie" post above.

The stars might not last forever, James, but you will.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 11 years ago

Great post. All good points.

Posted by C-Biscuit over 11 years ago

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