The example in my mind is an entire Myth book where the heroes go on a huge adventure trying to recapture a fugitive because they have been deemed "responsible" for its escape. After many hardships, they succeed and, while resting at home, find out that the fine for failure was, like $50.

The point being: figure out what the cost of failure is before spending an infinite amount on success.

For corporations, they are obligated to make a business decision which maximizes net profit; hence paying a $10,000 fine (if they get caught) rather than spend $50,000 cleaning up. They are not evil, just playing the game as we have defined it.

For consumers, it might be paying a little more for an appliance rather than spending lots of time researching the best possible deal, or risking an unknown brand or DIY solution. It is trading extra money for time and assurance.

  1. What is the name for this trade-off?
    Is it the opposite or inverse of perfectionism? Pragmatism?

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Mitch, choster, Nathaniel, michael_timofeev Dec 30 '15 at 15:27

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests" – tchrist, Mitch, choster, Nathaniel
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Lazy shortcut ? – Blessed Geek Dec 27 '15 at 21:54
  • Perhaps "psychopathy" or simply "arrogance." – Mark Hubbard Dec 27 '15 at 21:56
  • 1
    This question puts me in mind of In other words, can we stand the rap, or can't we? If we can stand the rap, perhaps we don't need quite so much insurance. Except the implication there is that we do actually "find out the cost of failure". It's just that we might then decide that even though the cost of failure is high, the likelihood of failure is low, so we figure it's better not to take preventative action / buy insurance. The opposite choice being something like spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. – FumbleFingers Dec 27 '15 at 22:06
  • Sounds like a bribe to me. – Hot Licks Dec 27 '15 at 23:01
  • If we were immortal, no one would buy insurance because, in the long run, it all works out even. It is the short-term and statistically unlikely events that we want protection from because we don't have a few thousand years for it to even out. I'm looking for terms associated with checking or not checking to see the cost or likelihood of failure, perhaps terrified of its stigma, to the point where one spends far more on success than it is worth. – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:54

I think you are referring to the principle of least effort:

  • It postulates that animals, people, even well designed machines will naturally choose the path of least resistance or "effort". (Wikipedia)

  • Concept that an entity, organization, or system tries either to change its environment to suit its needs, or to change itself to suit the demands of the environment - whichever is easier in terms of effort and cost. In other words one either resists or goes with the flow, depending on what one can put in and what it takes. (businessdictionary.com)

  • It sounds fine, I guess. – Afsane Dec 27 '15 at 23:18
  • One must judge between the "effort" represented by money. Everyone makes the best decision they can at the time; I'm looking for the "screw it, I'll just pay the parking ticket" decision – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:45
  • 1
    Sorry I am busy now, will check later. – user66974 Jan 4 '16 at 13:25

Indulgence is the term for paying a fine to the church to avoid the penance for a sin. The practice has fallen by the wayside, but the term remains.

The wikipedia article describes it as:

"a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins", which may reduce either or both of the penance required after a sin has been forgiven, or after death, the time to be spent in Purgatory.

  • Indulgence is very close. I'm looking for an expression for the decision to pay an indulgence rather than avoiding sin – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:43

If the fine is "small" enough or if you are speaking metaphorically, it might be said to be a "slap on the wrist" (instead of a proper beating).


"a ​small ​punishment when a more ​severe ​punishment is ​deserved"

Alternatively, if you want to define the action from the agents POV point of view, you might consider WHITEWASH.

to make (something) whiter by painting it with whitewash. : to prevent people from learning the truth about (something ...

This article by the NYTimes uses it thusly

The Mexican government has moved swiftly to whitewash corruption and play down scandals.

  • 1
    I'm not judging the amount of the fine or the system which allows this to happen; I'm looking for the expression for making the decision – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:45
  • i dont think that i understood your question correctly, then. you mean something like "pardon", "minimization", "mitigation"? – tony gil Dec 29 '15 at 14:02
  • @RichardHaven better now? – tony gil Jan 4 '16 at 12:47

Consider cynicism

"Cynic" definition: a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view;

Cynicism is also the attitude or behaviour of someone who is willing to let other people be harmed in order to get an advantage.

  • I'm not sure about "willing to let other people be hurt." My query is more about self-centered decisions that are not concerned about the purpose of fines (to promote actions for the public good). I think cynics believe others are heartless and selfish. I find most of them are wounded romantics. – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:50
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - I don't understand either and I just voted to reopen the question. – Graffito Jan 4 '16 at 14:53

paying a penance

failing to find out the cost of failure before spending lots of effort and money avoiding it.

Spending lots of money, which could have been avoided, could be: spending "good money" after "bad".

  • It's a choice; good or bad money is an analysis of that choice. If I have lots of money, a $30 parking ticket is better for me than getting up and moving my car. – Richard Haven Dec 29 '15 at 1:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.