Parsimony vs. Economy

I have read of some budget proposals in Canada that call for cuts strait across the board. Edmond Burke calls this approach ‘parsimony’. I like this word – parsimony. It sounds like something Id like to have with my apple pie.


1. Unusual or excessive frugality; extreme economy or stinginess.
2. Adoption of the simplest assumption in the formulation of a theory or in the interpretation of data, especially in accordance with the rule of Ockham’s razor.

Parsimony is what every Scotsmans, Dutchman and Conservative is accused of… and what the Obama administration cannot be accused of. But according to Burke, we should seek economy and not parsimony.

Mere parsimony is not economy, it is separable in theory from it and in fact it may or may not be a apart of economy according to circumstances. Expense and great expense may be an essential part in true economy…

Economy is a distributive virtue and consists not in saving but in selection.
Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no comparison, no judgement but mere instinct, and that not of the noblest kind… The other economy has larger views. It demands a discriminating judgement and a firm sagacious mind.

The longer we avoid difficult decisions, the more difficult it will be to avoid parsimony down the road. We could decide that rather than make painful budget cuts, we will inflate our way out of our problems. But this would be truly parsimonious.

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