1. The Law of 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.
2. The Course of Progress
Most things get steadily worse. (Note: this does not contradict (1),
for a few things have become much better, e.g., surgery, economic theory,
3. The Path of Progress
A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.
4. The Dialectics of Progress
Direct action produces direct reaction. For example, student attempts
to radicalize the faculty succeed only in reactivating them.
5. The Pace of Progress
Society is a mule, not a car. One cannot just press on the accelerator
and go exactly where one wishes. The animal can be prodded, but most
of the time it will go at its own pace, often straying from the path.
If pressed too hard, it will kick and throw off its rider.
6. On Reform
Most people do not go to the dentist until they have a toothache; most
societies do not reform abuses until the victims begin to make life
uncomfortable for others.
7. On Revolution
Revolutions revolve 360 degrees.
8. On unexpected Side-effects
If economic theory, historical perspective, and political sagacity give
you reason to believe that A leads to B, then if you are wrong or unlucky,
you will get X instead. But if your sums are correct and you have a
reasonable measure of luck, by producing A you should get B. However,
you can be sure that, at the same time, you will get C, D, and E, whose
existence neither you nor anyone else ever suspected.
9. On Expectations and Achievments
In the most favorable circumstances, achievements cannot exceed the
square root of expectations.
10. An Operational Definition of Development
In an underdeveloped country, when you are absent your job is taken
away from you; in a developed country a new one is piled on you.
11. The Means of Development
Economic development takes place when managers work hard and die young.
If they have heart attacks at the age of 50, as in the United States,
that is called Free Enterprise. If they are shot periodically, as in
the Soviet Union, that is Planning. If they come to their offices at
10, have frequent breaks and long lunch hours, leave at five, and generally
create a pleasant atmosphere, as in England, there is no development.
12. Issawi’s Factor 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.
(Examples: Japanese on warplanes, Russians on the bomb, Iranians on
refineries, Egyptians on the Suez Canal, Chinese on everything.)
13. On the Waste of Labor
All societies have a mechanism for wasting labor. In underdeveloped
countries, raw labor is wasted: people are underemployed, and several
unskilled men do the work of one. In advanced societies, embodied labor
is wasted: the goods and materials produced by highly productive workers
are thrown away.
17. Second Law of Committo-dynamics
The less you enjoy serving on committees, the more likely you are to
be pressed to do so.
20. On Near and Distant Neighbors
All countries hate their immediate neighbors and like the next but one.
(For example, the Poles hate the Germans, Russians, Czechs, and Lithuanians,
and they like the French, Hungarians, Italians, and Latvians.)
21. Issawi’s Law of Petroleum
Where there are Muslims there is oil; the converse is not true.
22. The Issawi-Wilcox Principle
Problems increase in geometric ratio, solutions in arithmetic ratio.
Steven Wright's Rules
1. All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
2. I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.
3. OK, so what's the speed of dark?
4. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
5. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
6. Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
7. Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.
8. I intend to live forever -- so far, so good.
9. 24 hours in a day ... 24 beers in a case.....coincidence?
10. When I'm not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded.
11. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
12. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
13. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need
14. For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
15. Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.
16. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
17. Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.
18. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch
19. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
20. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never
21. A fool and his money are soon partying.
22. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
23. Borrow money from pessimists-they don't expect it back.
24. Half the people you know are below average.