Jerry Pournelle

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There is no shortcut to life. To the end of our days, life is a lesson imperfectly learned.
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Jeremia Eugene Pournelle (born August 7, 1933) American essayist, journalist and science fiction author.


Lucifer's Hammer (1985)

with Larry Niven
  • In any ethical situation, the thing you want least to do is probably the right action.
  • The importance of information is directly proportional to its improbability.
  • To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.


  • Of course most people underestimate the warrior characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman peoples anyway. It takes a heap of piety to keep a Viking from wanting to go sack a city.
  • Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
  • I've noticed that just about every time I find a large program with known glitches that no one seems able to fix, that program is written in C and is likely written by a programming team in a remote location.
    • Chaos Manor, Byte magazine, October 1990, page 84.


  • I have more information in one place than anybody in the world.
    • Commonly seen with the attribution "Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS"
    • Clarified in a reply to reader email in Chaos Manor View 402, Febuary 20-26, 2006

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