“Timely” does not allow “expediency”. (Author Unknown)
An interesting statement! Is it an absolute, a propositional maxim, or situational? I am deeply concerned about situational ethics. The quote addresses a facet of that problem.
After ruminating on it, I decided to initiate conversation on the subject by laying out a few facts and a few opinions of my own. Your mileage may vary, so after considering the ramifications of such actions discussed below, you are welcome to further illuminate the subject, and to consider whether the raison d’etre for your actions is appropriate.
I would be happy just to learn who wrote the introductory quote!
Good form (not expediency) dictates beginning with a definition of the key terms used in the quoted aphorism (a timely action):
- Timely (from www.merriam-webster.com): “Coming early or at the right time; or, appropriate or adapted to the times or the occasion.”
- Expedient (from www.merriam-webster.com): “Suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance; or, characterized by concern with what is opportune; especially, governed by self-interest.”
Timeliness is seen as a parameter of the peformance of an action that is appropriate and good for the fulfillment of a need or desire as of a date certain, or in advance of that date. Too soon or too late do not meet the requirements of timely. Timeliness most often carries a necessary component of preparation and of prerequisite actions to understand morals, ethics, rules, technical information and skillsets necessary to meet agreed-upon expectations including “on time and on target”.
Expediency is seen as a driver for an action to realize self-serving or political gain without regard to morals, ethics, right or wrong. Pure expediency often falls on the immoral, unethical and “wrong” side of the line, driven only by self-service including the Agency Problem. Sometimes, “time” is attached to expediency as a performance specification, however the fundamentals remain.
Have you heard the justification, “We had to be expedient in order to delivery a necessarily timely response”, as if expediting delivery now covered a detour around some type of standards? How often that statement is followed by necessary rescue, rework, repair and reparation! That remediation is usually performed and paid for “by others”, often by the victims of the expedient action. Case law for personal, professional and product liability usually differentiates between intentional (often, therefore criminally negligent when the actions or results contravened prevailing statutes and regulations), and unintentional actions (often simply negligent, but still potentially subject to recovery through civil tort by those who suffered loss) actions in the context of “normal actions” within the affected community.
Caution: The above iteration is a “rule of thumb” generalization without legal standing. I am not an attorney, nor have I portrayed one on television, so obtain legal advise before drawing any conclusions in regard to anyone’s proposed or actual actions and the results of those actions upon anyone or thing!
Just trying to get the hang of this timely vis-a-vis expedient thing!
Timely and Expedient?
Timely expediency implies that, giving the best construction to it, a “short-cut” is being utilized that does not meet one or a set of societal values, whether niceties, guidelines, standards or rules, but realizes a goal of the actor, whether or not beneficial to the subjects of the action.
Most heroism involves timely action, even if over an extended period of heroic endeavor. An act of heroism is commonly also expedient in that the actor sets aside conventional wisdom, common sense or adopted rules, including the normal maxim advocating avoidance of high levels of personal risk – and does so in a timely manner!
For the beneficiaries, heroism is an act of grace, and the follow-through (hopefully, timely and not expedient) most often includes a dispensing of mercy for the actor’s expediency and gratitude to the actor for their timeliness — for non-exacerbating exceptions taken to societal standards during the heroic act.
Other examples of timely expediency may reveal use of a short-cut that does not meet a set of societal values but realizes a goal of a negligent or nefarious actor. Both grace to the victims of the action and mercy to the perpetrator are often denied in those instances.
Perhaps expedient may be appropriately related to timely only when such an action is unavoidable in an urgent quest for beneficial results, a crisis, where no other means are reasonably available and irreparable harm or loss would otherwise occur.
Even under the best of “timely and expedient” situations, consequences of actions must still be addressed. We recently read of men charged with violation of posted Wildlife Habitat Area regulations after they were observed rescuing a drowning deer. That charge seems outlandish at first read, however the wardens were only authorized (and therefore themselves charged with) to enforce the regulations as written – or they too would be taking expedient and illegal, although timely, actions. “The system” then required engaging in an adjudication process prior to granting clemency to the “perpetrators” because they performed a greater good and the intent of the regulations was determined not to have been violated. Perhaps, before “the next time” occurs, the regulations might be revisited and revised in response to this learning experience, in a timely manner?
A “for the greater good” defense is often invoked by someone who willfully intended loss or harm through self-serving expedient and timely actions, hoping that a “gray area”, an ambiguity, will help them out of a claimed “I was only trying to help” dilemma.
If the situation arises, remember, the timely and expedient defense that does not work is…
Everybody else was doing it!