There seems to be a class of arguments in which one person tries to justify some investment (some sort of 'cost' such as money or time) by argueing that it helps mitigate the situation that some (supposed?) risk manifests as a problem. For example:

  • We should get this car insurance because when we have an accident, the costs will be high.
  • We should spend time on training our teaching staff because doing so too late may cause people to not send their children to our school.
  • We should work on improving the logging functionality of our software such that if a customer reports a bug, we have a better chance of diagnosing the cause.

Typically, such arguments are difficult because the person trying to justify the investment is basing her argument on a potential win whereas the counter-argument is based on a concrete cost.

I once heard the term "uphill argument" (and have been using it ever since) for this kind of situation where it's much easier to argue against some decision than in favor of it. I imagine it's derived from an 'uphill battle' in which the party further up the hill requires less effort than the party down the hill. I wonder: is there an 'official', commonly acknowledged name for it?

  • 1
    More typical than an "uphill argument" or "uphill battle" (at least in the U.K.) is an "uphill struggle". Jun 16, 2017 at 12:34
  • A Tough sell is too broad to mean difficult because of long term goals, but fits well with the more difficult to argue for, than against. Aug 15, 2017 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


I think this is a case where the person who is arguing for implementation has or "bears" the burden of proof, which Mirriam-Webster defined as:

the duty of proving a disputed assertion or charge

  • Isn't that always the case? Aug 15, 2017 at 13:52
  • @ChrisWohlert, it's certainly generally the case that anyone advocating change bears the burden of proof. However, sometimes a cursory glance at a situation will reveal what looks, prima facie, an excellent reason to make a change, such as an obvious cost saving or similar. In such cases, the burden of proof may be shifted from that default conservative position, and "because we've always done it that way" ceases to be adequate. Aug 15, 2017 at 14:00
  • Surely, that excellent reason is the proof. So as with anything, once proven, the burden shifts. Aug 15, 2017 at 14:09

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