Voltaire was not required reading at Hawera High School, so when Tim Groser invited the media, during the Trans-Pacific Partnership press conference in Atlanta this week, to "remember the old phrase, 'The excellent is almost always the enemy of the good'," I couldn't.
Before I had even a second to think about it, the discussion had moved on to the significance of the Canadian election on the TPP deal.
It wasn't until Winston Peters started talking on Morning Report that Voltaire's words hit home. Peters attacked the deal, effectively because it was less than excellent.
He invoked the words of latter-day philosopher and writer Stevie Wonder to suggest Signed, Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours was the negotiating plank of the Government.
On the issue of perfection, Peters is right. We haven't seen the deal but we know enough to know it did not land in the "high quality, ambitious and comprehensive" zone agreed upon four years ago by the 12 parties.
The US, Japan and Canada reneged on that commitment.
If comprehensive and high quality were the test, New Zealand would not sign it.
The question, in the absence of perfection, is what the test should be.
The only rational answer to that is: "Will New Zealand be better off by signing the TPP or by not signing it?"
It will be passed by the Cabinet and National has the numbers with Act and Peter Dunne to pass any legislation required.
But the Government would prefer to pass it with as much cross-party support as possible.
The campaign against the TPP has shifted the default position of the public from a generally pro-FTA position to neutral.
In the Herald's DigiPoll survey in August, only 22.9 per cent said they supported it generally on the basis that New Zealand's economic well-being depended on increased trade with the world; 31.3 per cent opposed it on the basis of investor-state dispute procedures and 45 per cent had no view.
Labour has been pivotal in shifting public opinion, shifting its own position last year from a pro starting point to a neutral one.
Andrew Little built on that by adding five bottom lines which, apart from one, are highly subjective and could be interpreted whichever way Labour chooses.
The four conditions you could drive a bus through are protecting the drug agency Pharmac; preventing companies from successfully suing the Government for regulating in the public interest; upholding the Treaty of Waitangi; and meaningful gains for farmers on tariffs reduction and market access.
The more contentious one is that the TPP does not prevent New Zealand from restricting sales of farmland and housing to non-resident foreign buyers.
Ironically, it will be the one bottom line on which Labour probably won't be able to object - if the fine print is like the recently signed Korea Free Trade Agreement (which Labour supported).
Under non-conforming measures, Annex II, on 59 and 60, a future government will not only be able to maintain restrictions under the Overseas Investment Act it will have the right to adopt new criteria on which to base approvals. That, for example, means it should be able to change the law to say sensitive land includes any residential land in Auckland.
Peters attacked the deal, effectively because it was less than excellent.
The actual wording is: "New Zealand reserves the right to adopt [my emphasis] or maintain any measure that sets out the approval criteria to be applied to the categories of transactions that require approval under New Zealand's overseas investment regime."
If the same exception is in the TPP, Labour won't have wriggle-room on sales to non-resident overseas buyers.
That means Labour has effectively set itself a subjective and political test.
Curiously, when Andrew Little set out the "bottom lines" he objected to the Herald story saying Labour had set out its conditions for support.
He tweeted the reporter to say "we set out what we're opposed to".
When Helen Clark said last week it was unthinkable that New Zealand not be part of TPP, the extension of that was is it unthinkable that Labour not support it.
It was Phil Goff under her leadership who got the United States on board to join the TPP talks in 2008 when the P4 (New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile) were about to sit down to negotiate an investment chapter on their existing FTA.
My prediction is that Labour will spend the next month sounding as though it opposes the TPP, pointing out where it could have been better, condemning the Government for not getting a perfect deal, but end up supporting it. In the process it will be sending mixed messages.
If the test is whether New Zealand will be better off signing the TPP or not signing it, there is only one answer.
Better off - not just for the $259 million in identifiable tariff reductions but for the so-called "dynamic gains of trade" that come with a greater presence in a market as the China FTA has shown.
Labour and New Zealand First will rail against Tim Groser's failure to get a great deal on dairy, but the public are not fools.
They know the blame lies with the United States and its protectionist buddies in Canada and Japan.
Labour could perhaps apply its own test to the way it handles the TPP issue: will Labour be better off supporting the deal than not supporting it. Will it be any better off sounding as though it opposes it but supporting it in the end?
If it does not support TPP eventually it would be punished for the next two years by the Government over its willingness to allow New Zealand exporters to be disadvantaged in export markets of new partners, where 93 per cent of tariffs will eventually disappear.
It would erode its standing as a potential government of a trade-driven nation.
Winston Peters, apparently, has not made up his mind either.
That may be true now that he is an electorate MP and has kiwifruit fruit growers and dairy farmers as constituents.
Peters has never voted for a free-trade agreement, not even the China FTA when he was Foreign Minister.
As Voltaire may have said of him: "Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do."