Perfect is the enemy of good

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This natural diamond crystal contains flaws and the flawless diamonds called paragons are rare.

"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without."


Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism or proverb which is commonly attributed to Voltaire whose moral poem, La Bégueule, starts[2]

Aristotle, Confucius and other classical philosophers propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general.[3] The Pareto principle or 80–20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort.[4] Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient. Watson-Watt, who developed early warning radar in Britain to counter the rapid growth of the Luftwaffe, propounded a "cult of the imperfect", which he stated as "Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes."[5] Economists such as George Stigler say that "If you never miss a plane, you're spending too much time at the airport.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M.P. Singh (2005), Quote Unquote (A Handbook of Quotations), p. 223, ISBN 8183820085 
  2. ^ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Allen W. Wood, Hugh Barr Nisbet, Elements of the philosophy of right 
  3. ^ Tal Ben-Shahar (2009), The Pursuit of Perfect, McGraw Hill Professional, ISBN 978-0-07-160882-4 
  4. ^ E. Gandevia, S. Breakspear, Equip 
  5. ^ L Brown (1999), Technical and Military Imperatives: A Radar History of World War 2, p. 64, ISBN 9781420050660 
  6. ^ Bryan Caplan (May 20, 2010), If You Never Miss a Plane..., Library of Economics and Liberty 
  7. ^ Steven E. Landsburg (2008), More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, Simon and Schuster, p. 224, ISBN 9781416532224