- Economists' Laws:
- What men learn from history
is that men do not learn from history.
- If on an actuarial basis
there is a 50-50 chance that something will go wrong, it
will actually go wrong nine times out of ten.
- The number of different
hypotheses erected to explain a given biological
phenomenon is inversely proportional to the available
- Law of Editorial
- Anyone nit-picking enough to
write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless
deserves the error that provoked it.
- Ehrlich's Rule:
- The first rule of intelligent
tinkering is to save all the parts.
- Things will get worse before
they will get better. Who said things would get better?
- Nothing is so good as it
- One good turn gets most of
- That which we call sin in
others is experiment for us.
- Old Engineer's
- The larger the project or
job, the less time there is to do it.
- The "Enough
- The more you run over a dead
cat, the flatter it gets.
- In an R & D orbit, only 2
of the existing 3 parameters can be defined
simultaneously. The parameters are: task, time, and
resources ($). 1) If one knows what the task is, and
there is a time limit allowed for the completion of the
task, then one cannot guess how much it will cost. 2) If
the time and resources ($) are clearly defined, then it
is impossible to know what part of the R & D task
will be performed. 3) If you are given a clearly defined
R & D goal and a definte amount of money which has
been calculated to be necessary for the completion of the
task, one cannot predict if and when the goal will be
reached. 4) If one is lucky enough to be able to
accurately define all three parameters, then what one is
dealing with is not in the realm of R & D.
- Epstein's Law:
- If you think the problem is
bad now, just wait until we've solved it.
- The other line moves faster.
- Corollary: Don't
try to change lines. The other line -- the one you were
in originally -- will then move faster.
- Evans's Law:
- Nothing worth a damn is ever
done as a matter of principle. (If it is worth doing, it
is done because it is worth doing. If it is not, it's
done as a matter of principle.)
- Evans's Law of
- When team members are finally
in a position to help the team, it turns out they have
quit the team.
- Evelyn's Rules
for Bureaucratic Survival:
- A bureaucrat's castle is his
desk . . . and parking place. Proceed cautiously when
- On the theory that one should
never take anything for granted, follow up on everything,
but especially those items varying from the norm. The
greater the divergence from normal routine and/or the
greater the number of offices potentially involved, the
better the chance a never-to-be-discovered person will
file the problem away in a drawer specifically designed
for items requiring a decision.
- Never say without
qualification that your activity has sufficient space,
money, staff, etc.
- Always distrust offices not
under your jurisdiction which say that they are there to
serve you. "Support" offices in a bureaucracy
tend to grow in size and make demands on you out of
proportion to their service, and in the end require more
effort on your part than their service is worth.
Support organizations can always prove success by showing
service to someone . . . not necessarily you.
- Incompetents often hire able
- Everitt's Form of
the Second Law of Thermodynamics:
- Confusion (entropy) is always
increasing in society. Only if someone or something works
extremely hard can this confusion be reduced to order in
a limited region. Nevertheless, this effort will stil
result in an increase in the total confusion of society
- Eve's Discovery:
- At a bargain sale, the only
suit or dress that you like best and that fits is the one
not on sale.
- Adam's Corollary:
It's easy to tell when you've got a bargain -- it doesn't
Laws of Expectations:
- Negative expectations yield
- Positive expectations yield
- First Law of
- Don't ask the barber whether
you need a haircut.
- Faber's Laws:
- If there isn't a law, there
- The number of errors in any
piece of writing rises in proportion to the writer's
reliance on secondary sources.
- Fairfax's Law:
- Any facts which, when
included in the argument, give the desired result, are
fair facts for the argument.
- Falkland's Rule:
- When it is not necessary to
make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.
- Farber's First
- Give him an inch and he'll
- Farber's Second
- A hand in the bush is worth
two anywhere else.
- Farber's Third
- We're all going down the same
road in different directions.
- Farber's Fourth
- Necessity is the mother of
- After things have gone from
bad to worse, the cycle will repeat itself.
- Farrow's Finding:
- If God had intended for us to
go to concerts, He would have given us tickets.
- Law of Fashion:
- Any given dress is: indecent
10 years before its time, daring 1 year before its time,
chic in its time, dowdy 3 years after its time, hideous
20 years after its time, amusing 30 years after its time,
romantic 100 years after its time, and beautiful 150
years after its time.
- Rule of Feline
- When your cat has fallen
asleep on your lap and looks utterly content and
adorable, you will suddenly have to go to the bathroom.
- Fetridge's Law:
- Important things that are
supposed to happen do not happen, especially when people
- Fett's Law of the
- Never replicate a successful
- The Fifth Rule:
- You have taken yourself too
- Finagle's Creed:
- Science is Truth. Don't be
misled by fact.
- Finagle's First
- If an experiment works,
something has gone wrong.
- Finagle's Second
- No matter what result is
anticipated, there will always be someone eager to (a)
misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened
according to his own pet theory.
- Finagle's Third
- In any collection of data,
the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of
checking, is the mistake.
- No one whom you ask for help
will see it.
- Everyone who stops by with
unsought advice will see it immediately.
- Finagle's Fourth
- Once a job is fouled up,
anything done to improve it only makes it worse.
- Finagle's Law
According to Niven:
- The perversity of the
universe tends to a maximum.
- Finagle's Laws of
- The information you have is
not what you want.
- The information you want is
not what you need.
- The information you need is
not what you can obtain.
- The information you can
obtain costs more than you want to pay.
- Finagle's Rules:
- Ever since the first
scientific experiment, man has been plagued by the
increasing antagonism of nature. It seems only right that
nature should be logical and neat, but experience has
shown that this is not the case. A further series of
rules has been formulated, designed to help man accept
the pigheadedness of nature.
- To study a subject best,
understand it thoroughly before you start.
- Always keep a record of data.
It indicates you've been working.
- Always draw your curves, then
plot the reading.
- In case of doubt, make it
- Experiments should be
reproducible. They should all fail in the same way.
- When you don't know what you
are doing, do it NEATLY.
- Teamwork is essential; it
allows you to blame someone else.
- Always verify your
- Be sure to obtain
meteorological data before leaving on vacation.
- Do not believe in miracles.
Rely on them.
- The tire is only flat on the
- Creativity varies inversely
with the number of cooks involved with the broth.
- Flap's Law:
- Any inanimate object,
regardless of its composition or configuration, may be
expected to perform at any time in a totally unexpected
manner for reasons that are either entirely obscure or
- Ford Pinto Rule:
- Never buy a car that has a
- Fortis's Three
Great Lies of Life:
- Money isn't everything.
- It's great to be a Negro.
- I'm only going to put it in a
- Three Lies
According to Playboy:
- The check's in the mail.
- Anticipation is half the fun.
- I promise I won't come in
- Hare's Additional
Lie: This will hurt me more than it hurts
Additional Lie: I've never done this
- Foster's Law:
- If you cover a congressional
committee on a regular basis, they will report the bill
on your day off.
- Fowler's Law:
- In a bureaucracy,
accomplishment is inversely proportional to the volume of
- Fowler's Note:
- The only imperfect thing in
nature is the human race.
- Frankel's Law:
- Whatever happens in
government could have happened differently, and it
usually would have been better if it had.
- Corollary: Once
things have happened, no matter how accidentally, they
will be regarded as manifestations of an unchangeable
- He that lives upon Hope dies
- Franklin's Rule:
- Blessed is he who expects
nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.
- Freeman's Law:
- Nothing is so simple it
cannot be misunderstood.
- Freemon's Rule:
- Circumstances can force a
generalized incompetent to become competent, at least in
a specialized field.
- Fried's Law:
- Ideas endure and prosper in
inverse proportion to their soundness and validity.
- Laws of the
- The most powerful force in
the world is that of a disc straining to land under a
car, just beyond reach. (The technical term for this
force is "car suck".)
- The higher the quality of a
catch or the comment it receives, the greater the
probability of a crummy return throw. ("Good catch.
. . Bad throw.")
- One must never precede any
maneuver by a comment more predictive than, "Watch
this!" (Keep 'em guessing.)
- The higher the costs of
hitting any object, the greater the certainty it will be
struck. (Remember: The disk is positive; cops and old
ladies are clearly negative.)
- The best catches are never
seen. ("Did you see that?" "See
- The greatest single aid to
distance is for the disc to be going in a direction you
did not want. (Wrong way = long way.)
- The most powerful hex words
in the sport are: "I really have this down --
watch." (Know it? Blow it!)
- In any crowd of spectators at
least one will suggest that razor blades could be
attached to the disc. ("You could maim and kill with
- The greater your need to make
a good catch, the greater the probability your partner
will deliver his worst throw. (If you can't touch it, you
can't trick it.)
- The single most difficult
move with a disc is to put it down. ("Just one
- Frisch's Law:
- You cannot have a baby in one
month by getting nine women pregnant.
- Time is money.
- Fudd's First Law
- If you push something hard
enough, it will fall over.
Deviant to Fudd's Law:
- It goes in -- it must come
- Funkhouser's Law
of the Power of the Press:
- The quality of legislation
passed to deal with a problem is inversely proportional
to the volume of media clamor that brought it on.
- Futility Factor
- No experiment is ever a
complete failure -- it can always serve as a bad example,
or the exception that proves the rule (but only if it is
the first experiment in the series).
- Fyffe's Axiom:
- The problem-solving process
will always break down at the point at which it is
possible to determine who caused the problem.
- Gadarene Swine
- Merely because the group is
in formation does not mean that the group is on the right
- Galbraith's Law
of Political Wisdom:
- Anyone who says he isn't
going to resign, four times, definitely will.
- Galbraith's Law
- Getting on the cover of
"Time" guarantees the existence of opposition
in the future.
- If you put tomfoolery into a
computer, nothing comes out but tomfoolery. But this
tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive
machine, is somehow ennobled, and no one dares to
- Corollary: An
expert is a person who avoids the small errors while
sweeping on to the Grand Fallacy.
- Laws of
- Other people's tools work
only in other people's yards.
- Fancy gizmos don't work.
- If nobody uses it, there's a
- You get the most of what you
need the least.
- Gardner's Rule of
- The society which scorns
excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble
activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because
it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing
nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories
will hold water.
Dictum: Whatever isn't forbidden is
- Corollary: If there's no
reason why something shouldn't exist, then it must exist.
- Law of
Generalizations: All generalizations are
- It's a good thing money can't
buy happiness. We couldn't stand the commercials.
- Gerrold's Law
- A little ignorance can go a
Addendum: ...in the direction of maximum
- The difference between a
politician and a snail is that a snail leaves its slime
- Gerrold's Laws of
- An object in motion will be
heading in the wrong direction.
- An object at rest will be in
the wrong place.
- Gerrold's Laws of
- An object in motion will
always be headed in the wrong direction.
- An object at rest will always
be in the wrong place.
- The energy required to change
either one of the states will always be more than you
wish to expend, but never so much as to make the task
- Getty's Reminder:
- The meek shall inherit the
earth, but NOT its mineral rights.
- Gibb's Law
- Infinity is one lawyer
waiting for another.
- Gilb's Laws of
Unreliability (see also Troutman's
Laws of Computer Programming):
- Computers are unreliable, but
humans are even more unreliable.
- Corollary: At
the source of every error which is blamed on the computer
you will find at least two human errors, including the
error of blaming it on the computer.
- Any system which depends on
human reliability is unreliable.
- The only difference between
the fool and the criminal who attacks a system is that
the fool attacks unpredictably and on a broader front.
- A system tends to grow in
terms of complexity rather than of simplification, until
the resulting unreliability becomes intolerable.
- Self-checking systems tend to
have a complexity in proportion to the inherent
unreliability of the system in which they are used.
- The error-detection and
correction capabilities of any system will serve as the
key to understanding the type of errors which they cannot
- Undetectable errors are
infinite in variety, in contrast to detectable errors,
which by definition are limited.
- All real programs contain
errors until proved otherwise -- which is impossible.
- Investment in reliability
will increase until it exceeds the probable cost of
errors, or somebody insists on getting some useful work
- Gilmer's Motto
for Political Leadership:
- Look over your shoulder now
and then to be sure someone's following you.
Theorem (Generalized Laws of Thermodynamics):
- You can't win.
- You can't break even.
- You can't even quit the game.
Commentary on Ginberg's Theorem:
- Things will get worse before
they get better.
- Who said things would get
Commentary on Ginberg's Theorem:
- Every major philosophy that
attempts to make life seem meaningful is based on the
negation of one part of Ginsberg's Theorem. To wit:
- Capitalism is based on the
assumption that you can win.
- Socialism is based on the
assumption that you can break even.
- Mysticism is based on the
assumption that you can quit the game.
- Glatum's Law of
- The perceived usefulness of
an article is inversely proportional to its actual
usefulness once bought and paid for.
- Godin's Law:
- Generalizedness of
incompetence is directly proportional to highestness in
- Golden Principle:
- Nothing will be attempted if
all possible objections must first be overcome.
- The Golden Rule
of Arts and Sciences:
- Whoever has the gold makes
- Gold's Law
- If the shoe fits, it's ugly.
- (Bill) Gold's
- A column about errors will
- (Vic) Gold's Law:
- The candidate who is expected
to do well because of experience and reputation (Douglas,
Nixon) must do BETTER than well, while the candidate
expected to fare poorly (Lincoln, Kennedy) can put points
on the media board simply by surviving.
- Goldwyn's Law of
- A verbal contract isn't worth
the paper it's written on.
- Golub's Laws of
- Fuzzy project objectives are
used to avoid the embarrassment of estimating the
- A carelessly planned project
takes three times longer to complete than expected; a
carefully planned project takes only twice as long.
- The effort requires to
correct course increases geometrically with time.
- Project teams detest weekly
progress reporting because it so vividly manifests their
lack of progress.
- The 19 Rules for good Riting:
- Each pronoun agrees with
- Just between you and I, case
- Verbs has to agree with their
- Watch out for irregular verbs
which has cropped up into our language.
- Don't use no double
- A writer mustn't shift your
point of view.
- When dangling, don't use
- Join clauses good like a
- And don't use conjunctions to
- Don't use a run-on sentence
you got to punctuate it.
- About sentence fragments.
- In letters themes reports
articles and stuff like that we use commas to keep
- Don't use commas, which
- Its important to use
- Don't abbrev.
- Check to see if you any words
- In my opinion I think that
the author when he is writing should not get into the
habit of making use of too many unnecessary words which
he does not really need.
- Then, of course, there's that
old one: Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
- Last but not least, avoid
cliches like the plague.
- Goodfader's Law:
- Under any system, a few
sharpies will beat the rest of us.
- Goodin's Law of
- The new hardware will break
down as soon as the old is disconnected and out.
- Gordon's First
- If a research project is not
worth doing, it is not worth doing well.
Gordon's Rule of Evolving Bryophytic Systems:
- While bryophytic plants are
typically encountered in substrata of earthy or mineral
matter in concreted state, discrete substrata elements
occasionally display a roughly spherical configuration
which, in presence of suitable gravitational and other
effects, lends itself to combined translatory and
rotational motion. One notices in such cases an absence
of the otherwise typical accretion of bryophyta. We
conclude therefore that a rolling stone gathers no moss.
(Rutgers): Generally the subjective value
assignable to avian lifeforms, when encountered and
considered within the confines of certain orders of woody
plants lacking true meristematic dominance, as compared
to a possible valuation of these same lifeforms when in
the grasp of -- and subject to control by -- the
manipulative bone/muscle/nerve complex typically
terminating the forelimb of a member of the species homo
sapiens (and possibly direct precursors thereof) is
approximately five times ten to the minus first power.
- Goulden's Axiom
of the Bouncing Can:
- If you drop a full can of
beer, and remember to rap the top sharply with your
knuckle prior to opening, the ensuing gush of foam will
be between 89 and 94 percent of the volume that would
splatter you if you didn't do a damned thing and went
ahead and pulled the top immediately.
- Goulden's Law of
- If a jury in a criminal trial
stays out for more than 24 hours, it is certain to vote
acquittal, save in those instances when it votes guilty.
- Graditor's Laws:
- If it can break, it will, but
only after the warranty expires.
- A necessary item goes on sale
only after you have purchased it at the regular price.
- Gray's Law of
Bilateral Asymmetry in Networks:
- Information flows efficiently
through organizations, except that bad news encounters
high impedance in flowing upward.
- Gray's Law of
- n+1 trivial tasks are
expected to be accomplished in the same time as n trivial
- Logg's Rebuttal
to Gray's Law of Programming: n+1 trivial
tasks take twice as long as n trivial tasks.
- Rule of the
- When someone you greatly
admire and respect appears to be thinking deep thoughts,
they are probably thinking about lunch.
- Greenberg's First
Law of Influence:
- Usefulness is inversely
proportional to reputation for being useful.
- Greener's Law:
- Never argue with a man who
buys ink by the barrel.
- I'd give my right arm to be
- Gresham's Law:
- Trivial matters are handled
promptly; important matters are never resolved.
- Grosch's Law:
- Computing power increases as
the square of the cost. If you want to do it twice as
cheaply, you have to do it four times slower.
- Gross's Law:
- When two people meet to
decide how to spend a third person's money, fraud will
- Complex problems have simple,
easy to understand wrong answers.
- Gummidge's Law:
- The amount of expertise
varies in inverse proportion to the number of statements
understood by the general public.
- Gumperson's Law:
- The probability of anything
happening is in inverse ratio to its desirability.
- After a salary raise, you
will have less money at the end of the month than you had
- The more a recruit knows
about a given subject, the better chance he has of being
assigned to something else.
- You can throw a burnt match
out the window of your car and start a forest fire, but
you can use two boxes of matches and a whole edition of
the Sunday paper without being able to start a fire under
the dry logs in your fireplace.
- Children have more energy
after a hard day of play than they do after a good
- The person who buys the most
raffle tickets has the least chance of winning.
- Good parking places are
always on the other side of the street.
- The most undesirable things
are the most certain (death and taxes).
- Guthman's Law of
- Thirty seconds on the evening
news is worth a front page headline in every newspaper in
- Hacker's Law:
- The belief that enhanced
understanding will necessarily stir a nation or an
organization to action is one of mankind's oldest
- Hacker's Law of
- Anyone having supervisory
responsibility for the completion of a task will
invariably protest that more resources are needed.
- Hagerty's Law:
- If you lose your temper at a
newspaper columnist, he'll get rich or famous or both.
- Haldane's Law:
- The Universe is not only
queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we CAN
- Hale's Rule:
- The sumptuousnss of a
company's annual report is in inverse proportion to its
profitability that year.
- Hall's Law:
- There is a statistical
correlation between the number of initials in an
Englishman's name and his social class (the upper class
having significantly more than three names, while members
of the lower class average 2.6).
- That tendency to err that
programmers have been noticed to share with other human
beings has often been treated as if it were an
awkwardness attendant upon programming's adolescence,
which like acne would disappear with the craft's coming
of age. It has proved otherwise.
- Harden's Law:
- Every time you come up with a
terrific idea, you find that someone else thought of it
- Hardin's Law:
- You can never do merely one
- You never find an article
until you replace it.
- Harris's Lament:
- All the good ones are taken.
- Harris's Law:
- Any philosophy that can be
put "in a nutshell" belongs there.
- One of the greatest unsolved
riddles of restaurant eating is that the customer usually
gets faster service when the retaurant is crowded than
when it is half empty; it seems that the less the staff
has to do, the slower they do it.
- For every action, there is an
equal and opposite criticism.
- Hartig's How Is
Good Old Bill? We're Divorced Law:
- If there is a wrong thing to
say, one will.
- Hartig's Sleeve
in the Cup, Thumb in the Butter Law:
- When one is trying to be
elegant and sophisticated, one won't.
- Hartley's Law:
- You can lead a horse to
water, but if you can get him to float on his back you've
- Hartley's Second
- Never go to bed with anybody
crazier than you are.
- Nothing minor ever happens to
a car on the weekend.
- Nothing minor ever happens to
a car on a trip.
- Nothing minor ever happens to
- Hart's Law:
- In a country as big as the
United States, you can find fifty examples of anything.
- Harvard Law:
- Under the most rigorously
controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume,
humidity, and other variables, any experimental organism
will do as it damn well pleases.
- Harver's Law
- A drunken man's words are a
sober man's thoughts.
- Hawkin's Theory
- Progress does not consist of
replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right.
It consists of replacing a theory that is wrong with one
that is more subtly wrong.
- Hein's Law:
- Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back.
- Heller's Myths of
- The first myth of management
is that it exists. The second myth of management is that
success equals skill.
(Johnson): Nobody really knows what is
going on anywhere within your organization.
- Hellrung's Law
- If you wait, it will go away.
(Shevelson's Extension: ...
having done its damage.)
Addition: ... if it was bad, it will be
- If a problem causes many
meetings, the meetings eventually become more important
than the problem.
- Herblock's Law:
- If it's good, they'll stop
- Herrnstein's Law:
- The total attention paid to
an instructor is a constant regardless of the size of the
- Hersh's Law:
- Biochemistry expands to fill
the space and time available for its completion and
- Hildebrand's Law:
- The quality of a department
is inversely proportional to the number of courses it
lists in its catalogue.
- Historian's Rule:
- Any event, once it has
occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent
- Hoare's Law of
- Inside every large program is
a small program struggling to get out.
- Hogg's Law of
- The amount of junk is in
direct proportion to the amount of space available.
Corollary: If you go on a trip taking two
bags with you, one containing everything you need for the
trip and the other containing absolutely nothing, the
second bag will be completely filled with junk acquired
on the trip when you return.
- Horner's Five
- Experience varies directly
with equipment ruined.
- The real world is a special
- Horowitz's Rule:
- A computer makes as many
mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working 20 years.
- Howard's First
Law of Theater:
- Use it.
- Howe's Law:
- Every man has a scheme that
will not work.
- Hull's Theorem:
- The combined pull of several
patrons is the sum of their separate pulls multiplied by
the number of patrons.
- Hull's Warning:
- Never insult an alligator
until after you have crossed the river.
- IBM Pollyanna
- Machines should work. People
- Idea Formula:
- One man's brain plus one
other will produce about one half as many ideas as one
man would have produced alone. These two plus two more
will produce half again as many ideas. These four plus
four more begin to represent a creative meeting, and the
ratio changes to one quarter as many.
- The Ike
- Things are more like they are
now than they have ever been before.
- Corollary: Nostalgia isn't
what it used to be.
- Iles's Law:
- There is an easier way to do
- When looking directly at the
easier way, especially for long periods, you will not see
- Neither will Iles.
- Imhoff's Law:
- The organization of any
bureaucracy is very much like a septic tank -- the REALLY
big chunks always rise to the top.
- Index of
- The degree of a country's
development is measured by the ratio of the price of an
automobile to the cost of a haircut. The lower the ratio,
the higher the degree of development.
- Law of the
- Nobody really cares or
understands what anyone else is doing.
- Laws of
- Everything is cold except
what should be.
- Everything, including the
corn flakes, is greasy.
- Law of
- The opulence of the front
office decor varies inversely with the fundamental
solvency of the firm.
- Iron Law of
- Them what has -- gets.
Wakefield's Refutation of the Iron Law of Distribution:
- Them what gets -- has.
- Issawi's Law of
- At any given moment, a
society contains a certain amount of accumulated and
accruing aggressiveness. If more than 21 years elapse
without this aggressiveness being directed outward, in a
popular war against other countries, it turns inward, in
social unrest, civil disturbances, and political
- Issawi's Laws of
- Comitas comitatum, omnia
- The less you enjoy serving on
committees, the more likely you are to be pressed to do
- Issawi's Law of
the Conservation of Evil:
- The total amount of evil in
any system remains constant. Hence, any diminution in one
direction -- for instance, a reduction in poverty or
unemployment -- is accompanied by an increase in another,
e.g., crime or air pollution.
- Issawi's Law of
- Other people's patterns of
expenditure and consumption are highly irrational and
- Issawi's Law of
- Cynics are right nine times
out of ten; what undoes them is their belief that they
are right ten times out of ten.
- Issawi's Law of
- When we call others dogmatic,
what we really object to is their holding dogmas that are
different from our own.
- Issawi's Law of
Estimation of Error:
- Experts in advanced countries
underestimate by a factor of 2 to 4 the ability of people
in underdeveloped countries to do anything technical.
- Issawi's Law of
- One cannot make an omelette
without breaking eggs -- but it is amazing how many eggs
one can break without making a decent omelette.
- Issawi's Laws of
- The Course of
Progress: Most things get steadily worse.
- The Path of
Progress: A shortcut is the longest
distance between two points.
- The Dialectics of
Progress: Direct action produces direct
- The Pace of
Progress: Society is a mule, not a car . .
. If pressed too hard, it will kick and throw off its
- Issawi's Law of
the Social Sciences:
- By the time a social science
theory is formulated in such a way that it can be tested,
changing circumstances have already made it obsolete.
Observation on the Consumption of Paper:
- Each system has its own way
of consuming vast amounts of paper: in socialist
societies by filling large forms in quadruplicate, in
capitalist societies by putting up huge posters and
wrapping every article in four layers of cardboard.
- First Postulate
- Things equal to nothing else
are equal to each other.
- Italian Proverb:
- She who is silent consents.
Postulate on Democratic Governments:
- No man's life, liberty or
property are safe while the legislature is in session.
- Jake's Law:
- Anything hit with a big
enough hammer will fall apart.
- The distance you have to park
from your apartment increases in proportion to the weight
of packages you are carrying.
- Jay's Laws of
- Changing things is central to
leadership, and changing them before anyone else is
- To build something that
endures, it is of the greatest important to have a long
tenure in office -- to rule for many years. You can
achieve a quick success in a year or two, but nearly all
of the great tycoons have continued their building much
- Jenkinson's Law:
- It won't work.
- Jinny's Law:
- There is no such thing as a
short beer. (As in, "I'm going to stop off at Joe's
for a short beer before on the way home.")
- John's Axiom:
- When your opponent is down,
- John's Collateral
- In order to get a loan you
must first prove you don't need it.
- Johnson's First
- When any mechanical
contrivance fails, it will do so at the most inconvenient
- Johnson's Second
- If, in the course of several
months, only three worthwhile social events take place,
they will all fall on the same evening.
- Johnson's Third
- If you miss one issue of any
magazine, it will be the issue containing the article,
story, or installment you were most anxious to read.
- Corollary: All
of your friends either missed it, lost it, or threw it
- Johnson's First
Law of Auto Repair:
- Any tool dropped while
repairing an automobile will roll under the car to the
vehicle's exact geographic center.
- Toothache tends to start on
- Jones's Law:
- The man who can smile when
things go wrong has thought of someone he can blame it
- Jones's Motto:
- Friends may come and go, but
Codicil on Jones's Motto: To make an enemy,
do someone a favor.
- Needs are a function of what
other people have.
- Juhani's Law:
- The compromise will always be
more expensive than either of the suggestions it's
- Kafka's Law:
- In the fight between you and
the world, back the world.
- Kamin's First
- All currencies will decrease
in value and purchasing power over the long term, unless
they are freely and fully convertable into gold and that
gold is traded freely without restrictions of any kind.
- Kamin's Second
- Threat of capital controls
accelerates marginal capital outflows.
- Kamin's Third
- Combined total taxation from
all levels of government will always increase (until the
government is replaced by war or revolution).
- Kamin's Fourth
- Government inflation is
always worse than statistics indicate: central bankers
are biased toward inflation when the money unit is
non-convertible, and without gold or silver backing.
- Kamin's Fifth
- Purchasing power of currency
is always lost far more rapidly than ever regained.
(Those who expect even fluctuations in both directions
play a losing game.)
- Kamin's Sixth
- When attempting to predict
and forecast macro-economic moves or economic legislation
by a politician, never be misled by what he says; instead
watch what he does.
- Kamin's Seventh
- Politicians will always
inflate when given the opportunity.
- Kaplan's Law of
- Give a small boy a hammer and
he will find that everything he encounters needs
- Katz's Law:
- Men and nations will act
rationally when all other possibilities have been
- Katz's Maxims:
- Where are the calculations
that go with the calculated risk?
- Inventing is easy for staff
outfits. Stating a problem is much harder. Instead of
stating problems, people like to pass out half- accurate
statements together with half-available solutions which
they can't finish and which they want you to finish.
- Every organization is
self-perpetuating. Don't ever ask an outfit to justify
itself, or you'll be covered with facts, figures, and
fancy. The criterion should rather be, "What will
happen if the outfit stops doing what it's doing?"
The value of an organization is more easily determined
- Try to find out who's doing
the work, not who's writing about it, controlling it, or
- Watch out for formal
briefings; they often produce an avalanche (a high-level
snow job of massive and overwhelming proportions).
- The difficulty of the
coordination task often blinds one to the fact that a
fully coordinated piece of paper is not supposed to be
either the major or the final product of the
organization, but it often turns out that way.
- Most organizations can't hold
more than one idea at a time. Thus complementary ideas
are always regarded as competetive. Further, like a
quantized pendulum, an organization can jump from one
extreme to the other, without ever going through the
- Try to find the real tense of
the report you are reading: Was it done, is it being
done, or is it something to be done? Reports are now
written in four tenses: past tense, present tense, future
tense, and pretense. Watch for novel uses of
"contractor grammar", defined by the imperfect
past, the insufficient present, and the absolutely
- Kelley's Law:
- Last guys don't finish nice.
- Kelly's Law:
- An executive will always
return to work from lunch early if no one takes him.
- Kennedy's Law:
- Excessive official restraints
on information are inevitably self-defeating and
productive of headaches for the officials concerned.
- Kent's Law:
- The only way a reporter
should look at a politician is down.
- Kerr-Martin Law:
- In dealing with their OWN
problems, faculty members are the most extreme
- In dealing with OTHER
people's problems, they are the world's most extreme
- Kettering's Laws:
- If you want to kill any idea
in the world today, get a committee working on it.
- If you have always done it
that way, it is probably wrong.
- Key to Status:
- S = D/K. S is the status of a
person in an organization, D is the number of doors he
must open to perform his job, and K is the number of keys
he carries. A higher number denotes higher status. Thus
the janitor needs to open 20 doors and has 20 keys (S =
1), a secretary has to open two doors with one key (S =
2), but the president never has to carry any keys since
there is always someone around to open doors for him
(with K = 0 and a high D, his S reaches infinity).
- Every action or decision of
an institution must be intended to keep the institution
- Corollary: The expert
judgment of an institution, when the matter involved
concerns continuation of the institution's operations, is
totally predictable, and hence the finding is totally
- Kirkland's Law:
- The usefulness of any meeting
is in inverse proportion to the attendance.
- Kitman's Law:
- On the TV screen, pure drivel
tends to drive off ordinary drivel.
- All warranty and guarantee
clauses are voided by payment of the invoice.
- Any product cut to length
will be too short.
- Klipstein's Law
- In specifications, Murphy's
Law supersedes Ohm's.
- Klipstein's Laws:
- Applied to
- A patent application will be
preceded by one week by a similar application made by an
- Firmness of delivery dates is
inversely proportional to the tightness of the schedule.
- Dimensions will always be
expressed in the least usable term. Velocity, for
example, will be expressed in furlongs per fortnight.
- Any wire cut to length will
be too short.
- Applied to
Prototyping and Production:
- Tolerances will accumulate
unidirectionally toward maximum difficulty to assemble.
- If a project requires n
components, there will be n-1 units in stock.
- A motor will rotate in the
- A failsafe circuit will
- A transistor protected by a
fast-acting fuse will protect the fuse by blowing first.
- A failure will not appear
until a unit has passed final inspection.
- A purchased component or
instrument will meet its specs long enough, and only long
enough, to pass incoming inspection.
- After the last of 16 mounting
screws has been removed from an access cover, it will be
discovered that the wrong access cover has been removed.
- After an access cover has
been secured by 16 hold-down screws, it will be
discovered that the gasket has been omitted.
- After an instrument has been
assembled, extra components will be found on the bench.
- Knight's Law
- Life is what happens to you
while you are making other plans.
- Knoll's Law of
- Everything you read in the
newspapers is absolutely true except for that rare story
of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge.
- Knowles's Law of
- The length of debate varies
inversely with the complexity of the issue.
- Corollary: When
the issue is trivial, and everyone understands it, debate
is almost interminable.
- Kohn's Second
- Any experiment is
reproducible until another laboratory tries to repeat it.
- Koppett's Law:
- Whatever creates the greatest
inconvenience for the largest number must happen.
- The trouble with resisting
temptation is it may never come your way again.
- Kristol's Law:
- Being frustrated is
disagreeable, but the real disasters in life begin when
you get what you want.
- A taxpayer is someone who
does not have to take a civil service exam in order to
work for the government.
- Labor Law
- A disagreeable law is its own
- First Law of
- Hot glass looks exactly the
same as cold glass.
- LaCombe's Rule of
- The incidence of anything
worthwhile is either 15-25 percent or 80-90 percent.
- An answer of 50 percent will
suffice for the 40-60 range.
- Langin's Law
- If things were left to
chance, they'd be better.
- Langsam's Law
- Everything depends.
- Lani's Principles
- Taxes are not levied for the
benefit of the taxed.
- $100 placed at 7% interest
compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more
than $100,000,000 by which time it will be worth nothing.
- In God we trust; all others
- It is more shameful to
distrust one's friends than to be deceived by them.
- What this world needs is a
damned good plague.
- Law of
- Those who have the shortest
distance to travel invariably arrive latest.
- Laura's Law
- No child throws up in the
- Lawyer's Rule
- When the law is against you,
argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue
the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer
- Leahy's Law
- If a thing is done wrong
often enough, it becomes right.
- Corollary: Volume is a
defense to error.
- Le Chatelier's
- If some stress is brought to
bear on a system in equilibrium, the equilibrium is
displaced in the direction which tends to undo the effect
of the stress.
- Lenin's Law
- Whenever the cause of the
people is entrusted to professors, it is lost.
- Le Pelley's Law
- The bigger the man, the less
likely he is to object to caricature.
- Les Miserables
- All laws, whether good, bad,
or indifferent, must be obeyed to the letter.
- Levy's Ten Laws
of the Disillusionment of the True Liberal
- Large numbers of things are
determined, and therefore not subject to change.
- Anticipated events never live
up to expectations.
- That segment of the community
with which one has the greatest sympathy as a liberal
inevitably turns out to be one of the most narrow-minded
and bigoted segments of the community.
- Always pray that your
opposition be wicked. In wickedness there is a strong
strain toward rationality. Therefore there is always the
possibility, in theory, of handling the wicked by
- Corollary 1:
Good intentions randomize behavior.
- Corollary 2: Good
intentions are far more difficult to cope with than
- Corollary 3:
If good intentions are combined with stupidity, it is
impossible to outthink them.
- Corollary 4:
Any discovery is more likely to be exploited by the
wicked than applied by the virtuous.
- In unanimity there is
cowardice and uncritical thinking.
- To have a sense of humor is
to be a tragic figure.
- To know thyself is the
ultimate form of aggression.
- No amount of genius can
overcome a preoccupation with detail.
- Only God can make a random
- Eternal boredom is the price
of constant vigilance.
- Lewis's Laws
- People will buy anything
that's one to a customer.
- No matter how long or how
hard you shop for an item, after you've bought it it will
be on sale somewhere cheaper.
- Liebling's Law
- If you just try long enough
and hard enough, you can always manage to boot yourself
in the posterior.
- Lilly's Metalaw
- All laws are simulations of
- Lloyd-Jones's Law
- The amount of litter on the
street is proportional to the local rate of unemployment.
- Law of Local
- Never say "oops" in
the operating room.
- (F)law of
- The longer ahead you plan a
special event, and the more special it is, the more
likely it is to go wrong.
- Long's Notes
- Always store beer in a dark
- Certainly the game is rigged.
Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win.
- Any priest or shaman must be
presumed guilty until proved innocent.
- Always listen to experts.
They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.
- If it can't be expressed in
figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
- It has long been known that
one horse can run faster than another -- but which one?
Differences are crucial.
- A fake fortuneteller can be
tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on
sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she
- Delusions are often
functional. A mother's opinions about her children's
beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam,
keep her from drowning them at birth.
- A generation which ignores
history has no past -- and no future.
- A poet who reads his verse in
public may have other nasty habits.
- Small change can often be
found under seat cushions.
- History does not record
anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational
basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough
to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like
dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time
and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure
from fiddling with it.
- It's amazing how much
"mature wisdom" resembles being too tired.
- Of all the strange
"crimes" that human beings have legislated out
of nothing, "blasphemy" is the most amazing --
with "obscenity" and "indecent
exposure" fighting it out for second and third
- It's better to copulate than
- Everything in excess! To
enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is
- It may be better to be a live
jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a
live lion. And usually easier.
- Never appeal to a man's
"better nature". He may not have one. Invoking
his self-interest gives you more leverage.
- Little girls, like
butterflies, need no excuse.
- Avoid making irrevocable
decisions while tired or hungry.
- An elephant: A mouse built to
- A zygote is a gamete's way of
producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the
- Stupidity cannot be cured
with money, or through education, or by legislation.
Stupidity is not a sin; the victim can't help being
stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital
crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and
execution is carried out automatically and without pity.
- God is omnipotent,
omniscient, and omnibenevolent. It says so right here on
the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all
three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a
wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in
- Beware of altruism. It is
based on self-deception, the root of all evil.
- The most preposterous notion
that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God
of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universe, wants
the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed
by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not
receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a
shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of
the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all
- The second most preposterous
notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.
- Everybody lies about sex.
- Rub her feet.
- Never underestimate the power
of human stupidity.
- Always tell her she is
beautiful, especially if she is not.
- In a family argument, if it
turns out you are right, apologize at once.
- To stay young requires
unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old
- Does history record any case
in which the majority was right?
- Secrecy is the beginning of
- The greatest productive force
is human selfishness.
- Be wary of strong drink. It
can make you shoot at tax collectors -- and miss.
- Expertise in one field does
not carry over into other fields. But experts often think
so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely
they are to think so.
- Never try to outstubborn a
- Tilting at windmills hurts
you more than the windmills.
- Yield to temptation; it may
not pass your way again.
- Waking a person unnecessarily
should not be considered a capital crime. For a first
offense, that is.
- The correct way to punctuate
a sentence that starts: "Of course it's none of my
business, but . . . " is to place a period after the
word "but". Don't use excessive force in
supplying such a moron with a period. Cutting his throat
is only a momentary pleasure and is bound to get you
- A skunk is better company
than a person who prides himself on being
- Natural laws have no pity.
- You can go wrong by being too
skeptical as readily as by being too trusting.
- Anything free is worth what
you pay for it.
- Climate is what we expect;
weather is what we get.
- Pessimist by policy, optimist
by temperament -- it is possible to be both. How? By
never taking an unnecessary chance and by minimizing
risks you can't avoid. This permits you to play out the
game happily, untroubled by the certainty of the outcome.
- "I came, I saw, SHE
conquered." (The original Latin seems to have been
- A committee is a life form
with six or more legs and no brain.
- Don't try to have the last
word. You might get it.
- Los Angeles Dodgers Law Wait
till last year.
- Law of the Lost
- In designing any type of
construction, no overall dimension can be totalled
correctly after 4:40 p.m. on Friday.
- Under the same conditions, if
any minor dimensions are given to sixteenths of an inch,
they cannot be totalled at all.
- The correct total will become
self-evident at 9:01 a.m. on Monday.
- Lowrey's Law
- If it jams, force it. If it
breaks, it needed replacing anyway.
- Lowrey's Law of
- Just when you get really good
at something, you don't need to do it any more.
- Lubarsky's Law of
- There's always one more bug.
- Lubin's Law
- If another scientist thought
your research was more important than his, he would drop
what he is doing and do what you are doing.
- Luce's Law
- No good deed goes unpunished.
- Lucy's Law
- The alternative to getting
old is depressing.
- Luten's Laws
- When properly administered,
vacations do not diminish productivity: for every week
you're away and get nothing done, there's another week
when your boss is away and you get twice as much done.
- It's not so hard to lift
yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground.
- If a computer cable has one
end, then it has another.
- The most important leg of a
three legged stool is the one that's missing.
- Lynch's Law:
- When the going gets tough,
- Lyon's Law of
- He who hesitates is last.
- If you have to travel on a
Titanic, why not go first-class?
- Rev. Mahaffy's
- There's no such thing as a
- Maier's Law:
- If the facts do not conform
to the theory, they must be disposed of.
- The bigger the theory, the
- The experiment may be
considered a success if no more than 50% of the observed
measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory. (Compensation Corollary)
- Malek's Law:
- Any simple idea will be
worded in the most complicated way.
- Malinowski's Law:
- Looking from far above, from
our high places of safety in the developed civilization,
it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of
- Malloy's Maxim:
- The fact that monkeys have
hands should give us pause.
- The first Myth of Management
- It exists.
- Truths of
- Think before you act; it's
not your money.
- All good management is the
expression of one great idea.
- No executive devotes effort
to proving himself wrong.
- Cash in must exceed cash out.
- Management capability is
always less than the organization actually needs.
- Either an executive can do
his job or he can't.
- If sophisticated calculations
are needed to justify an action, don't do it.
- If you are doing something
wrong, you will do it badly.
- If you are attempting the
impossible, you will fail.
- The easiest way of making
money is to stop losing it.
- Truth 5.1 of
- Organizations always have too
- Manly's Maxim:
- Logic is a systematic method
of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
- Mark's mark:
- Love is a matter of
chemistry; sex is a matter of physics.
Generalized Iceberg Theorem:
- Seven-eighths of everything
can't be seen.
Universal Laws of Perpetual Perceptual Obfuscation:
- Nobody perceives anything
with total accuracy.
- No two people perceive the
same thing identically.
- Few perceive what difference
it makes -- or care.
- Martha's Maxim
(and see Olum's Observation and Farrow's Finding):
- If God had meant for us to
travel tourist class, He would have made us narrower.
- Dean Martin's
Definition of Drunkenness:
- You're not drunk if you can
lie on the floor without holding on.
- Of all possible committee
reactions to any given agenda item, the reaction that
will occur is the one which will liberate the greatest
amount of hot air.
- Martin's Laws of
- The faculty expands its
activity to fit whatever space is available, so that more
space is always required.
- Faculty purchases of
equipment and supplies always increase to match the funds
available, so these funds are never adequate.
- The professional quality of
the faculty tends to be inversely proportional to the
importance it attaches to space and equipment.
- Martin's Law of
- All committee reports
conclude that "it is not prudent to change the
policy (or procedure, or organization, or whatever) at
Exclusion: Committee reports dealing with
wages, salaries, fringe benefits, facilities, computers,
employee parking, libraries, coffee breaks, secretarial
support, etc., always call for dramatic expenditure
- Martin's Law of
- The inevitable result of
improved and enlarged communication between different
levels in a hierarchy is a vastly increased area of
- Martin's Minimax
- Everyone knows that the name
of the game is to let the other guy have all of the
little tats and to keep all of the big tits for yourself.
- Matsch's Law:
- It is better to have a
horrible ending than to have horrors without end.
- Matsch's Maxim:
- A fool in a high station is
like a man on the top of a small mountain: everything
appears small to him and he appears small to everybody.
- Matz's warning:
- Beware of the physician who
is great at getting out of trouble.
- Only a mediocre person is
always at his best.
- May's Law:
- The quality of the
correlation is inversely proportional to the density of
the control (the fewer the facts, the smoother the
- May's Mordant Maxim:
- A university is a place where
men of principle outnumber men of honor.
- McCarthy's Law:
- Being in politics is like
being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to
understand the game and dumb enough to think it's
- McClaughry's Law
of Public Policy:
- Politicians who vote huge
expenditures to alleviate problems get re-elected; those
who propose structural changes to prevent problems get
- McClaughry's Law
- Where zoning is not needed,
it will work perfectly; where it is desperately needed,
it always breaks down.
- McDonald's Second
- Consultants are mystical
people who ask a company for a number and give it back to
- McGoon's Law:
- The probability of winning is
inversely proportional to the amount of the wager.
- McGovern's Law:
- The longer the title, the
less important the job.
- McGurk's Law:
- Any improbable event which
would create maximum confusion if it did occur, will
- McKenna's Law:
- When you are right, be
logical. When you are wrong, be-fuddle.
- McLaughlin's Law
(and see Parson's Third Law):
- The length of any meeting is
inversely proportional to the length of the agenda for
- McLean's Maxim:
- There are only two problems
with people. One is that they don't think. The other is
that they do.
- Any argument worth making
within the bureaucracy must be capable of being expressed
in a simple declarative sentence that is obviously true
- Margaret Mead's
Law of Human Migration:
- At least fifty percent of the
human race doesn't want their mother-in-law within
- Melcher's Law:
- In a bureaucracy, every
routing slip will expand until it contains the maximum
number of names that can be typed in a single vertical
- H. L. Mencken's
- Those who can -- do.
- Those who cannot -- teach.
- Those who cannot teach --
administrate. (Martin's Extension)
- For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution; and it is always wrong.
- Merkin's Maxim:
- When in doubt, predict that
the present trend will continue.
- Merrill's First
- There are no winners in life;
- Merrill's Second
- In the highway of life, the
average happening is of about as much true significance
as a dead skunk in the middle of the road.
- Meskimen's Laws:
1) When they want it bad (in a rush), they get it bad. 2)
There's never time to do it right, but always time to do
- Less is more.
- Pastore's Comment
on Michehl's Theorem:
- Nothing is ultimate.
- Mickelson's Law
of Falling Objects:
- Any object that is
accidentally dropped will hide under a larger object.
- Miksch's Law:
- If a string has one end, then
it has another end.
- Miller's Law:
- You can't tell how deep a
puddle is until you step into it.
- Mills's Law of
- The distance to the gate from
which your flight departs is inversely proportional to
the time remaining before the scheduled departure of the
(Woods): 1) This remains true even as you
rush to catch the flight. 2) From this it follows that
you are invariably rushing the wrong way.
- MIST Law (Man In
- The number of people watching
you is directly proportional to the stupidity of your
- Mobil's Maxim:
- Bad regulation begets worse
- Moer's Truism:
- The trouble with most jobs is
the resemblance to being in a sled dog team. No one gets
a change of scenery, except the lead dog.
- Money Maxim:
- Money isn't everything. (It
isn't plentiful, for instance.)
- Montagu's Maxim:
- The idea is to die young as
late as possible.
- No man is lonely while eating
- Morton's Law:
- If rats are experimented
upon, they will develop cancer. ("What this country
needs are some stronger white rats.")
- Mosher's Law:
- It's better to retire too
soon than too late.
- Munnecke's Law:
- If you don't say it, they
can't repeat it.
- Murchison's Law
- Money is like manure. If you
spread it around, it does a lot of good. But if you pile
it up in one place, it stinks like hell.
- This page was last updated
- Collection:Arthur Bloch
(original), Don Woods (update, last Aug 18, 1979)
- Copyright © 1998. All