Liberty and reality

Five years ago, as the financial crisis looked like taking down the banking system, I took out as much money as my card was permitted to get from ATMs, and stashed it in various books on my shelves. Whenever I find myself short of cash I can still browse through a few titles on the off-chance of finding a couple of tenners.

So it was that this morning I picked up a 2008 reissue of Walter Lippmann’s classic 1920 essay Liberty and the News.

(LIBERTY AND THE NEWS) BY Lippmann, Walter(Author)Paperback Oct-2007

There is great merit in reading old books because you find that current preoccupations are always echoes of past debates, although of course the context changes. Lippmann’s essay is full of insight and seems particularly timely again now. Here is one conclusion:

“The cardinal fact is always the loss of contact with objective information. Public as well as private reason depends on it. Not what somebody says, not what somebody wishes were true, but what is so beyond all our opining, constitutes the touchstone of our sanity. … Liberty is the name we give to measures by which we protect and increase the veracity of the information upon which we act.”

Liberty and the News¬†– my edition has a foreword by Ronald Steel and an afterword by Sidney Blumnethal – is well worth a read. Members of the reality-based community will find it uplifting, although of course other copies will not have ¬£20 stashed inside the front cover. (And if I’m meeting you today, I’ll now be able to pay for the coffee.)

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