Dangerous Precedent

Have you ever been caught in the net of the Principle of the Dangerous Precedent?  I bet you have.

After you read the definition below of the Principle of the Dangerous Precedent, you’ll laugh as much as I did the first time I read it.  When a quote so clearly describes reality, it’s almost as good to look at as an excellently drawn cartoon and the laugh from it is just as enjoyable.

Laugh away; then, let’s go do something for the first time.  Why not try?

Writing in 1908, F. M. Cornford said,

The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.

2 thoughts on “Dangerous Precedent”

  1. william lehman

    This is also known as a risk adverse or zero defect mentality, (also known as what the military in general has been drifting into for my entire association {of 32 years} with them)

  2. Reminds me of the comment, “That can’t possibly be right because if it was right then someone would have done it before now. No one has ever done it, therefore it must be wrong.” I actually had that excuse used on me once years ago. The person was very serious and thought he was helping us avoid what he saw as an inevitable failure.

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