Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)

“Love endures only when the lovers love many things together and not merely each other.”

“He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”

“Industry is a better horse to ride than genius.”

“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on.”

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil – remain detached from the great.”

“While the right to talk may be the beginning of freedom, the necessity of listening is what makes the right important.”

“Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party.”

“A man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”

“What a shame to waste those great shots on the practice tee.”

“This is one of the paradoxes of the democratic movement – that it loves a crowd and fears the individuals who compose it – that the religion of humanity should have no faith in human beings.”

“Ideals are an imaginative understanding of that which is desirable in that which is possible.”

“A long life in journalism convinced me many presidents ago that there should be a large air space between a journalist and the head of a state.”

“Our conscience is not the vessel of eternal verities. It grows with our social life, and a new social condition means a radical change in conscience.”

“Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort it brings.”

“The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.”

“I would have carved on the portals of the National Press Club, “Put not your trust in princes.” Only the very rarest of princes can endure even a little criticism, and few of them can put up with even a pause in the adulation.”

“The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opponents than from his fervent supporters.”

“Successful politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies.”

“Ignore what a man desires and you ignore the very source of his power.”

“We are all captives of the picture in our head – our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.”

“It is impossible to abolish either with a law or an ax the desires of men.”

“The great social adventure of America is no longer the conquest of the wilderness but the absorption of fifty different peoples.”

“Many a time I have wanted to stop talking and find out what I really believed.”

“The writers who have nothing to say, are the ones you can buy, the others have too high a price.”

“In the blood of the martyrs to intolerance are the seeds of unbelief.”

“True opinions can prevail only if the facts to which they refer are known; if they are not known, false ideas are just as effective as true ones, if not a little more effective.”

“Men are mortal, but ideas are immortal.”

“The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.”

“What we call a democratic society might be defined for certain purposes as one in which the majority is always prepared to put down a revolutionary minority.”

“No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people.”

“The press is no substitute for institutions. It is like the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of darkness into vision. Men cannot do the work of the world by this light alone.”

“The principle of majority rule is the mildest form in which the force of numbers can be exercised. It is a pacific substitute for civil war in which the opposing armies are counted and the victory is awarded to the larger before any blood is shed.”

“The ordinary politician has a very low estimate of human nature. In his daily life he comes into contact chiefly with persons who want to get something or to avoid something.”

“Nobody has worked harder at inactivity with such a force of character, with such unremitting attention to detail, with such conscientious devotion to the task.”

“There is nothing so bad but it can masquerade as moral.”

“Men who are “orthodox” when they are young are in danger of being middle-aged all their lives.”

“The lesson of the tremendous days through which we are passing is that men cannot live upon the achievements of their forefathers, but must themselves renew them – We cannot escape the elementary facts of life – that for a people there is nothing for.”

“The central drama of our age is how the Western nations and the Asian peoples are to find a tolerable basis of co-existence.”

“We are quite rich enough to defend ourselves, whatever the cost. We must now learn that we are quite rich enough to educate ourselves as we need to be educated.”

“Only the consciousness of a purpose that is mightier than any man and worthy of all men can fortify and inspirit and compose the souls of men.”

“Robinson Crusoe, the self-sufficient man, could not have lived in New York City.”

“Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much.”

“Society can only exist on the basis that there is some amount of polished lying and that no-one says exactly what he thinks.”

“In really hard times the rules of the game are altered. The inchoate mass begins to stir. It becomes potent, and when it strikes, . . . it strikes with incredible emphasis. Those are the rare occasions when a national will emerges. . .”

“Democracy is much too important to be left to public opinion.”

“Culture is the name for what people are interested in, their thoughts, their models, the books they read and the speeches they hear, their table-talk, gossip, controversies, historical sense and scientific training, the values they appreciate. . .”

“A country survives its legislation. That truth should not comfort the conservative nor depress the radical. For it means that public policy can enlarge its scope and increase its audacity, can try big experiments without trembling too much. . .”

“The study of error is not only in the highest degree prophylactic, but it serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth.”

“Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail.”

“The decay of decency in the modern age, the rebellion against law and good faith, the treatment of human beings as things, as the mere instruments of power and ambition, is without a doubt the consequence of the decay of the belief in man as something more than an animal animated by highly conditioned reflexes and chemical reactions. For, unless man is something more than that, he has no rights that anyone is bound to respect, and there are no limitations upon his conduct which he is bound to obey.”

“When men can no longer be theists, they must, if they are civilized, become humanists.”

“Where mass opinion dominates the government, there is a morbid derangement of the true functions of power. The derangement brings about the enfeeblement, verging on paralysis, of the capacity to govern.”

“The principles of the good society call for a concern with an order of being — which cannot be proved existentially to the sense organs — where it matters supremely that the human person is inviolable, that reason shall regulate the will. . .”

“The first principle of a civilized state is that the power is legitimate only when it is under contract.”

“The simple opposition between the people and big business has disappeared because the people themselves have become so deeply involved in big business.”

“Ages when custom is unsettled are necessarily ages of prophecy. The moralist cannot teach what is revealed; he must reveal what can be taught. He has to seek insight rather than to preach.”

“The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.”

“There is nothing so good for the human soul as the discovery that there are ancient and flourishing civilized societies which have somehow managed to exist for many centuries and are still in being though they have had no help from the traveler in solving their problems.”

“We forge gradually our greatest instrument for understanding the world – introspection. We discover that humanity may resemble us very considerably – that the best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbors is to know ourselves.”

“The private citizen, beset by partisan appeals for the loan of his public opinion, will soon see, perhaps, that these appeals are not a compliment to his intelligence, but an imposition on his good nature and an insult to his sense of evidence.”

“In government offices which are sensitive to the vehemence and passion of mass sentiment public men have no sure tenure. They are in effect perpetual office seekers, always on trial for their political lives, always required to court their restless constituents.”

“It is perfectly true that that government is best which governs least. It is equally true that that government is best which provides most.”

“You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steamroller will not plant flowers.”

“You don’t have to preach honesty to men with creative purpose. Let a human being throw the energies of his soul into the making of something, and the instinct of workmanship will take care of his honesty.”

“When philosophers try to be politicians they generally cease to be philosophers.”

“Unless democracy is to commit suicide by consenting to its own destruction, it will have to find some formidable answer to those who come to it saying: “I demand from you in the name of your principles the rights which I shall deny to you later. . .””

“The thinker dies, but his thoughts are beyond the reach of destruction. Men are mortal; but ideas are immortal.”

“A useful definition of liberty is obtained only by seeking the principle of liberty in the main business of human life, that is to say, in the process by which men educate their responses and learn to control their environment.”

“Once you touch the biographies of human beings, the notion that political beliefs are logically determined collapses like a pricked balloon.”

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