Nil agit exemplum litem quod lite resolvit.
(Horace, Satires 2.3.103

A precedent produces nothing which resolves one conflict with another.

(pron = nihl AH-ghit ek-SEM-ploom LEE-tehm kwod LEE-tay reh-SOHL-wit)

Comment: Just before these lines in Horace’s satires, he give the example of one
Greek man, Aristippus, who ordered his overburdened slaves to unload gold in the
middle of Libya because they were moving too slowly. He concludes: who is more
insane than this? You cannot provide a precedent which resolves one problem
with another.

Just yesterday I watched an interview with a Thai woman who had just received a
new house from Habitat for Humanity after the tsunami destroyed her home and
family. She said of the last 6 months that she had learned what it took to
live—nothing. She said that he had lived for the last 6 months with nothing.
She received the new house with utter gratitude, but knowing that she could
live on nothing.

Yesterday, I also read a letter that a group of parents wrote in concern over
redistricting of their neighborhood schools. While I am sure that they want
the best schools for their children, the under riding concern that appeared
over and over again in this letter was the value of their homes and property
that would go down if the wrong school were zoned for their neighborhood.

The question this line raises for me is this: what drives the decisions I make?
If what drives a decision is itself a misplaced or even dishonest motive, I
will end up with double the trouble, won’t I? Horace’s sentiment is very close
to the old adage that many of us grew up with: two wrongs don’t make a right.

The Thai woman’s world was swept away by a tsunami. She is very clear about
what to be thankful for. The American parents are really concerned that their
children’s schools (and hence, their property values) are not adversely
affected by children in a neighboring community whose school is not as good.
They might choose to come to their school. Rather than rise up and work for
better schools in the region, they seek to protect their property values from
“those people”. They are dropping their gold in the middle of the desert to
make the caravan move faster. How smart is that in the long run?

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.