Nirvana fallacy

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Not to be confused with the fallacy of confusing the general term "Nirvana" with 1990s grunge music.Wikipedia
Demand complete solutions. Avoid the issues by requiring opponents to solve the crime at hand completely.
—Rule 14, Rules of disinformation[1]

The Nirvana fallacy is a logical fallacy in which one assumes that a perfect solution to a given problem exists, and rejects more realistic answers in favour of it.

It can also be applied disingenuously to stone wall solutions to problems that some do not think are problems.

The fallacy is an ad hoc moralistic fallacy and an informal fallacy.

The term "Nirvana approach" was coined by the prominent economist Harold Demsetz, who famously wrote:[2]

The view that now pervades much public policy economics implicitly presents the relevant choice as between an ideal norm and an existing "imperfect" institutional arrangement. This nirvana approach differs considerably from a comparative institution approach in which the relevant choice is between alternative real institutional arrangements.

Alternate names[edit]

The best is the enemy of the good. (Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.)
  • Perfectionism
  • Perfectionist fallacy
  • Perfect solution fallacy


  1. The problem X has a perfect solution A.
  2. Therefore, imperfect yet realistic solutions B, C, and D are wrong because they are inferior to the idealised A.


  • The argument that abstinence is a perfect form of contraception[note 1] ignores that some people might actually want to have sex while using the contraception, and therefore assumes a perfect solution. This argument is usually used to reject condoms because they "only" have a 99% rate of preventing pregnancy.
  • The anti-science argument "science does not know everything about X, therefore it is worthless compared to some pseudoscience which claims it does."
  • The anti-intellectual argument that some scientific research doesn't cure cancer, therefore is a waste of money. Bonus irony points when using this argument on the LHC and particle physics in general, which resulted in the radiation therapies for cancers. Particle physics also was responsible for NMRI machines to diagnose cancers earlier. And ion thrusters, because hell yeah!
  • The more woo-prone parts of the environmentalist movement (e.g., hard green) often fall prey to assuming that reducing pollution is worthless, favouring an idealised state where there is no pollution at all.
  • Proclaiming that any medication that has side effects is worthless, or that any treatment less than 100% effective is a waste of time. Also often used by medical quacks who will argue that treatment to mitigate symptoms is pointless because it is not a cure.
  • Chemophobic arguments based on exposure levels which assume any exposure is unacceptable, regardless of whether there is any meaningful risk to health.
  • Mental illness denial based on the argument that since we don't fully understand the causes of mental illness or how exactly the treatments for it work, mental illness therefore must not be real and the treatments must be ineffective and dangerous. Often this argument will refer to historical examples of psychiatric treatments that did more harm than good (e.g., lobotomy) or unsubstantiated claims such as that SSRIs cause homicidal ideation and are responsible for mass shootings.
  • The notion that because a politician or other public figure is not perfect in some area of social justice, that person should not be praised for the positive things they say or do, and perhaps those things should not even be recognised or acknowledged (which is different from saying that anyone who gets it right in any way should therefore be shielded from criticism if when they get it wrong).
  • Rejecting efforts to abolish animal exploitation on the grounds that "people will not want to stop eating meat, so it's better to focus on killing animals in the best way possible."
  • Gun Extremists in the USA often reject reasonable law and regulation reform on the grounds that "criminals will just ignore laws" or "criminals will get their hands on guns anyways", ignoring the fact that gun laws do in fact reduce crime and the availability of illegal firearms.[4]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. Religious counterexamples notwithstanding.