On Failure, by Robert Gore

“Governments’ failures have deleterious differences with private sector failure. Fail enough in business or research and your funding dries up. Those who fund government have no say in whether programs are continued or terminated. Failure in government is an open and shut case for more funding, which is why decades-long failures like the wars on poverty, drugs, and terrorism receive larger appropriations every budget cycle. A Washington-declared war on anything elicits tears of joy from even the most hardened political cynics. Such “wars” are opened-ended, having no operative definition of success or failure (either of which should logically end the war). Once the enabling legislation and appropriations are passed, manna flows forever. The occasional “austerity pinch” only slows its growth rate, but never leads to an actual reduction in funding.”


The lives of men and women who rise to the top of their fields are replete with…failure. The best hitters in baseball trudge back to the dugout six out of ten times. Basketball’s high scorers miss half their shots. Several rockets blew up before the US put a man on the moon. Only a small percentage of Edison’s experiments yielded useful inventions. Despite years of deep theorizing, Einstein never came up with a unified field theory. Doesn’t all this suggest that failure may be essential for success, and the odium with which it’s tainted undeserved?

Evolution, science, and markets are instructive. Nature throws blobs of genetic variation at the wall and sees what sticks. For every mutation that increases a specie’s chances for survival via natural selection, there are thousands that either have no effect or are detrimental.

In the same vein, science is basically a series of better errors…

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Author: Lisa the Infidel

I am an #Infidel - born and bred North Carolina.

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