The Real Cause of Problems Is Solutions

Eric Sevareid? Ernest Thompson? Paul Dickson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Every solution to a problem inevitably creates a new problem. This ruefully defeatist viewpoint has inspired a logically twisted adage. Here are two versions:

The real cause of problems is solutions.
The chief cause of problems is solutions.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. journalist Eric Sevareid. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In July 1968 Eric Sevareid penned a piece in “The Progressive” magazine discussing the popularity of copying machines. These devices performed the useful task of duplicating the text and pictures displayed on paper sheets. Unfortunately, copying also encouraged the excessive proliferation of paper. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In 1965, these duplicating machines produced about ten billion copies of stuff. In two more years, the figure will be up around seventy billion copies . . .

The more somber thinkers, however, feel nothing serious will or can be done until the world runs out of trees for making paper. That, of course, will create other problems, but that is the nature of progress.

The greatest intellectual discovery of this generation is that the real cause of problems is solutions.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1968 July, The Progressive, Paper by Eric Sevareid of CBS News, Start Page 16, Quote Page 16, The Progressive Inc., Madison, Wisconsin. (Verified with scans from Opinion Archives)