Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mistakes v. Errors in Judgment

There are two classes of "mistakes." There are factual "mistakes" and then there are "mistakes" that are retrospective judgmental errors. Factual "mistakes" include incorrect mathematical calculations, or spelling errors. Retrospective errors in judgment are a very different form of "mistake;" an error that is not objectively factual, but one seen only subjectively in hindsight.

If, after assessing all known variables, a decision is made to undertake a deliberate action, the result of this action can only be termed "mistaken" retrospectively - never prospectively.

Decisions to marry, decisions to change jobs, decisions to raise taxes, decisions to declare war cannot be considered "mistakes", if elected conscientiously after proper evaluation of the variables involved. Whether these decisions eventuate into retrospective errors in judgment may take many years - even decades - to determine.

Chou En-lai, the former prime minister of China who was highly regarded for his intelligence, reportedly, was once asked his opinion as to the long-term effects of the French Revolution. "Too early to tell," he is said to have replied!