Guns and Butter: The Difficult Task of Balancing Priorities in Mediation


Lately, I have been struck by the difficult balance between the expenses of defense/litigation and the diminishing resources of the litigants involved. The Nazi official Hermann Goring famously said in 1936, “Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.” Then President Dwight D. Eisenhower voiced his objections to the expansion of what he saw as “endless warfare”, noting: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.”

In every failed attempt to settle a lawsuit, the parties have to consider the value of further litigation, the costs, and whether those limited resources would be better spent on “civilian goods” rather than further fighting. In a society where scarcity is a reality with some parties (Companies without liquidity, Plaintiff’s or their lawyers without sufficient funds to adequately invest in the costs of litigation), this tension is a reality.

In my personal v professional life, I am very clear. I have given up no less than 3 professional engagements or mediation hearings this month because my family commitment came first. I am very proud to say that watching my daughter successfully defend her dissertation yesterday was infinitely more satisfying than mediating the case that was scheduled for me that day. And attending my great-niece’s Bat Mitzvah this weekend will likely be more much more enriching than attending the Professional Mediator’s Conference I usually attend as well.

Does anyone else feel the pull between the guns v. butter debate in this context?

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About the Author

Jan Schau

Jan Frankel Schau is an Attorney Mediator in Los Angeles, California. She is an exclusive Neutral with ADR Services, Inc. specializing in employment, business and tort matters.

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