I heard Kevin Spacey in The House of Cards say "bad for the greater good". Can anyone tell me what that means??

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  • Welcome to EL&U. Do you have some thoughts as to what the phrase might mean? – rajah9 Mar 28 '17 at 20:01
  • @rajah9 thank you! I know that greater good means something good for all mankind and collectively beneficial. Am I right? – Sdilly Mar 28 '17 at 20:04
  • The character is corrupt and manipulative in the extreme. He means you do a little bad for the sake of the bigger picture. So the result is good for more people in the end. – Yosef Baskin Mar 28 '17 at 20:04
  • @rajah9 But the word 'bad' in the beginning caused the confusion. – Sdilly Mar 28 '17 at 20:06
  • 3
    Sometimes people will claim that they are doing something for the greater good (which is collectively beneficial) at the cost of something bad (for an individual or a small group). (For example, a tax may be bad for the greater good of society.) However, when Kevin Spacey is using this, the "bad" is bad, and the "greater good" is a weak or absent justification. – rajah9 Mar 28 '17 at 20:16

The character is saying that the ends justify the means. Good ends via bad means.


"Bad for the greater good" is synonymous with the well-known proverb "all's well that ends well."

all's well that ends well (phrase, proverb)

If the outcome of a situation is happy, this compensates for any previous difficulty or unpleasantness.

Note : This proverb was used as a title for one of William Shakespeare's comedies.

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