05 May 2007

Lateral Thinking and Dangerous Precedent

Look at Iraq. If the US said they were going to leave on a certain date, then for every week without any killings, the date would move forward, and for every week with a killing, the later and later the date would be delayed. This way those who killed would not be seen as heroes but those keeping the Americans in the country. Source
I don't know whether this would work, but Edward de Bono is surely correct when he says that we "have to be open to possibilities and willing to explore". That would include politicians, or at least those whom they employ to formulate policy. Unfortunately, the incentives work against those trying to think laterally.

Francis Cornford put it this way, a century ago in Microcosmographia Academica:

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.

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