Topical Quote: When the facts change, I change too: Churchill; Keynes; Samuelson

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 30 07:29:16 UTC 2011

A couple of trivially equivalent examples that do not, however, include
the retort, "What do YOU do?" or the address "Madam".
Reports of the Industrial Commission on Labor Organizations, Labor
Disputes, and Arbitration, and on Railway Labor. Volume 17. Washington,
DC: 1901 [Library notation on the book is "1902".]
Appendix: Views of Various Writers on Arbitration and Conciliation.
Advantages and Difficulties of Arbitration. Extract from Report of Mr.
Joseph D. Weeks to Governor of Pennsylvania. 1878. p. 695
> There is nothing eternal in an economic law; and when the facts change
> or are modified then the law, which is only a statement of these facts
> and their relations, changes or is modified.

The same paper had been reproduced multiple times between 1878 and 1913.
The Ohio Bureau of Labor Statistics quoted Weeks extensively in an
January 1, 1880 annual report (for 1879).

The whole paper was printed as a stand-alone pamphlet in 1879.

Another relevant instance is here:

It's a collection of British parliamentary papers that attributes the
following to "Miss Coleman" (1946?):

> Those people who are incapable of changing their views when the facts
> change are extremely rigid in their mental make up.

Another that's listed as from 1929:
> But the assessor is not obliged to guess. His wiser course is to base
> his valuations on known facts and to change the valuations when the
> facts change.

In a 1944 book What America Thinks, a politician is described
> He is realistic--willing to change his views when the facts change.^H«
> is idealistic, but becoming less so.

The same book was also published slightly earlier that year as What Our
People Think.

Another variant from 1951 (syndicated):
Atomic Supply on Increase. By Joseph and Stewart Alsop. St. Petersburg
Times - Aug 21, 1951. p. 6/5
> When the facts change, the strategy must change. Or else, because the
> transformation of the national situation has ben ignored, national
> strategy becomes obsolete, ineffient, and perhaps even unworkable.

Embarrassing Facts. NYT March 4, 1915
> Business men change their ' position when the facts change. Not so
> with Governments, at least our Administration.

Another nice line refers to--but does not attribute to--Nixon. [paywalled]

McGill Hails Change In Nixon Policy
Pay-Per-View - Hartford Courant - Aug 15, 1968
> Mr. Nixon's affirmation of such a policy, made in so clear and
> irrefutable a manner, is a tribute to his capacity to change when the
> facts change.

I found nothing that mentions Churchill until 2000s and I found the same
Samuelson statement in 1970 that Garson mentioned. GB has NO hits on
{"When the facts change * do you"} nor for "facts change I". Google News
archives also give no hits.


On 9/30/2011 1:20 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
> Mitt Romney is in the news for attributing a quotation to Winston
> Churchill. Here is an excerpt from an MSNBC article:
> <Begin excerpt>
> "In the private sector, if you don't change your view when the facts
> change, well you'll get fired for being stubborn and stupid." Romney
> said. "Winston Churchill said, 'When the facts change, I change too,
> Madam'"
> <End excerpt>
> Thanks to Barry Popik for mentioning this news story to me. The Quote
> Investigator website has an article about this saying which has been
> attached to famed economist John Maynard Keynes for decades. The
> earliest instance I found was said in 1970 by Nobel laureate Paul
> Samuelson.
> In a quick search the earliest cite I found for Churchill was dated 1999.
> Cite: 1999 September 18, Florida Times-Union, Editorial, Term Limits:
> Fowler's dilemma, Section Metro, Page B-6, Jacksonville, Florida.
> (NewsBank)
> <Begin excerpt>
> Winston Churchill once said to a woman berating him for changing his
> position, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do,
> madam?"
> <End excerpt>
> Garson

The American Dialect Society -

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