Politicians don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. “Often in error, but never in doubt” (or “Often wrong, but never in doubt") is a saying that’s been used by many political and business managers.
In 1919, an English judge was credited with “often was wrong but never in doubt.” Dean Acheson (1893-1971) served as Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of State in 1945 and then Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953. In 1946, Acheson attributed “This court is often in error but never in doubt” to a Washington jurist; in 1950, Acheson credited a Supreme Court justice; in papers published in 1980, Acheson credited a Washington trial court judge. Economist Paul Samuelson (1915-2009), writing in 1962, credited a New England judge.
Sage Thoughts for Would-Be Politicians
The Politician’s Rule:
In politics you can often be wrong, but never in doubt.
5 April 1919, Kansas City (MO) Star, “Here to dispute Reed: Missouri senator sought to mislead, Bainbridge Colby says,” pg. 8:
“And, of course, Senator Reed, like the English judge who often was wrong but never in doubt, is going to stand out against this accursed idea if he has to be the entire hollow square himself.”
1 January 1939, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, pg. 11B, col. 1:
That reminds me of the crack somebody made. “Bridge players are often wrong, but never in doubt.”
23 January 1946, Baltimore (MD) Sun, “Acheson wary on Jap islands” by Paul W. Ward, pg. 5:
When it was then suggested that the award of the Kuriles to Russia was only tentative, he said that was his understanding by laughingly that, in the words of a former Washington jurist, “This court is often in error but never in doubt.”
12 January 1950, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. 4, col. 4:
After describing Taft as a person who can “jump from doubt to no doubt,” Acheson said he was reminded of a one-time Supreme Court justice who said “this court is often in error, but never in doubt.”
(Secretary of State Dean Acheson—ed.)
22 April 1951, Panama City (FL) News-Herald, “Cracker Politics” by Allen Morris, pg. 4, col. 3:
Legislative bon mot of the week: Representative Thomas D. Beasley of Defuniak Springs, speaking of an opinionated colleague—“He’s often in error but never in doubt.”
The Age of Suspicion
By James A. Wechsler
New York, NY: Random House
It exuded all the certitude that made communism so alien a creed; like the old judge, it was often wrong but never in doubt.
The new America
By Adlai E. Stevenson
New York, NY: Harper
We hold that no doctrine is so sacred that it must reject conflicting evidence; we do not hold with the old judge who was often wrong but never in doubt.
Green grows Ivy
By Ivy Baker Priest
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
“I’m often wrong, but never in doubt,” I replied.
Google News Archive
1 May 1958, Tuscaloose (AL) News, “A Bill To Benefit All” by Doris Fleeson, pg. 4, col. 6:
Knowland, of course, chose his course long ago: he is often wrong but never in doubt.
(Senator William P. Knowland—ed.)
Problems of the American economy, an economist’s view
By Paul A. Samuelson
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
In fine, I am the contrary of the New England judge who reprimanded counsel with: “Sir, this Court is often in error but never in doubt.”
20 April 1968, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, “The Military Keeps Its Cheerful Pose” by Peter Lisagor, pg. 4, col. 7:
It would be patently unfair to compare them with the general who was “always wrong but never in doubt.”
Personal letters of Dean (Gooderham) Acheson
Edited by David MacLellan
Publisher: New York : Dodd, Mead & Co.
Some of my rulings remind me of a remark made by a judge of our trial court in Washington, who said, “This Court is often in error, but never in doubt.”
“Sometimes in the Wrong, but Never in Doubt”: George S. Benson and the Education of the New Religious Right by L. Edward Hicks (Hardcover - Jan 1995)
Often Wrong, Never in Doubt: Unleash the Business Rebel Within [Hardcover]
Donny Deutsch (Author), Peter Knobler (Author)
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: HarperBusiness (October 4, 2005)
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • (0) Comments • Monday, August 02, 2010 • Permalink