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Thank Goodness, Perfect Is Not Always The Enemy Of The Good

You probably thought this was going to be a post about our dysfunctional political system.

You can relax, it’s not.

Voltaire He's Not

Voltaire’s quote has got a lot of mileage lately, mostly by proponents of Health Care Reform.

The original quote in French is “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”, from Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764) Literally translated as “The best is the enemy of good.”, but is more commonly cited as “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

In other words, pursuing the “best” solution may end up doing less actual good than accepting a solution that, while not perfect, is effective. One could also infer that the best makes that which is good seem to be worth less than it is.

So it’s always inspiring to find a nice, simple, example of real people not letting perfection get in the way of their actions.

Case in point, we have a report in the Wall Street Journal that Bernie Madoff was “physically assaulted by another inmate in December, according to three people familiar with the matter”. Being a reputable news outlet the WSJ article takes pains to gather multiple sources and attempts to disect the reasons behind the beating. [I prefer to think of the incident as a beating as opposed to a physical assault.]

Mr. Madoff was treated for a broken nose, fractured ribs and cuts to his head and face, according to a felon currently at Butner serving time on drug charges who was familiar with his condition at the time.

In any case it never becomes quite clear why the assailant attacked Mr. Madoff, although several theories are offered.

My own theory is that the assailant was familiar with Voltaire, and decided to beat the s–t out of Bernie not because of a perfect reason, but just because he felt like it.


On the other hand, all is not lost for Bernie while he is behind bars. It turns out that in some cases life allows you a form of redemtion,

Fellow prisoners say Mr. Madoff, who is Inmate No. 61727-054 at Butner, has garnered some respect from inmates because of the breadth of his Ponzi scheme. The fraud caused about $20 billion in net losses by thousands of investors.

Hey, nothing is perfect.

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5 thoughts on “Thank Goodness, Perfect Is Not Always The Enemy Of The Good

  1. Beatings aside, a broader point could be made that while Madoff was good at his craft, he is but a mere amateur compared to what our Ruling Class has pulled off with the Social Security Ponzi scheme. A larger government will always take more of our freedom and money — but that’s ok because we won’t be burdened with the perils of individualism and worry’s about the future.
    Part of the problem today is that we as a society cannot agree on what what perfect, better and best is. By that I mean so many have been so heavily corrupted by ultra leftist thought that permeates our education system and especially our universities that many of these people are ready to embrace a far leftist government in this country. Crazy? Conspiracy nut? Look at what people were ready to accept when it was thought that the economy was heading for a complete melt down. Yesterday’s revolution will more likely today be a evolution but with similar end results and more palatable means. Those who follow Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals have big plans for changing America.
    So the bottom line is Bernie Madoff was smarter than the average crook and Barack Obama is smarter than the average community organizer. But which one will do the most damage?

    Posted by Sal | March 19, 2010, 5:07 pm
  2. Sal,

    I respect your perspective. The only point I’d like to inject is that regardless what people ‘think’ the economy HAD melted down, with the credit markets frozen.

    It’s not only where to draw the line on perfect, better and best; but also where to draw the line on when it is necessary for the government to become involved.


    Posted by Bob Gelber | March 20, 2010, 6:47 am
  3. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” —Rahm Emanuel
    or as Dan Quayle put it: “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind.”

    Posted by Sal | March 20, 2010, 7:35 am
  4. As I recall the financial “bailout” was engineered by both sides of our political class, both of whom are run by and for the rich.

    Have you ever heard anyone call for a tax on wealth instead of income? I’d call that center left. Far left would be emptying the prison population on Wall Street and equipping them with nail-spiked 2x4s.

    Both of which I would support.

    And Bob, there are plenty of things we could have done without engaging in the largest transfer of wealth from the working class to the wealthy in world history.

    Posted by Matthew | March 25, 2010, 11:34 am

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