Public Persons

Overview

This set of brief pieces examines the relation of power to knowledge. Lippmann paid little homage to the innate wisdom of the people. While he had no wish to disenfranchise citizens, he believed elites drove the engines of power. His point was that liberty and democracy require government that will, when necessary, "swim against the tides of private feelings." Because the public is too divided, poorly informed, and too self-regarding, authority has to be delegated, perhaps to "intelligence bureaus," or at least ...

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Overview

This set of brief pieces examines the relation of power to knowledge. Lippmann paid little homage to the innate wisdom of the people. While he had no wish to disenfranchise citizens, he believed elites drove the engines of power. His point was that liberty and democracy require government that will, when necessary, "swim against the tides of private feelings." Because the public is too divided, poorly informed, and too self-regarding, authority has to be delegated, perhaps to "intelligence bureaus," or at least to those who are wiser than the many that have the power to decide vexing questions on their own merits.

Lippmann knew that in the real world we cannot expect to be ruled by philosopher-kings. While ready to settle for less, he was not ready to settle for politicians who get ahead "only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle and otherwise manage to manipulate demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies." The seducers and bamboozlers were generally in charge, and because they were in an age "rich with varied and generous passions" they had become disorderly and deranged.

Public Persons is the informal side of The Public Philosophy. Lippmann tries to account for the decline of Western democracies and prescribe for their revival. He concludes that it is not possible to discover by rational inquiry the conditions that must be met if there is to be a good society. Lippmann saw tension between private impulses and transcendent truth as the "inexhaustible theme of human discourse." The occasional harmonies in the lives of saints and the deeds of heroes and the excellence of genius are glorious. But glory was the exception, wretchedness the rule. In this casual volume both are given a human face.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412810616
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Pages: 190
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was the author of many books on political thought and was widely considered America’s most distinguished syndicated columnist. In addition to being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he won two Pulitzer Prizes for his newspaper column “Today and Tomorrow,” which appeared in the New YorkHerald Tribune.

Gilbert A. Harrison was a former publisher and editor of The New Republic. In addition, he is the author of A Timeless Affair: The Life of Anita McCormick Blaine and The Enthusiast: A Life of Thorton Wilder.

Gilbert A. Harrison was a former publisher and editor of The New Republic. In addition, he is the author of A Timeless Affair: The Life of Anita McCormick Blaine and The Enthusiast: A Life of Thorton Wilder.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

William James

Lincoln Steffens

George Santayana

Upton Sinclair

Lewis Jerome Johnson

Paul Mariett

John Reed

Sigmund Freud

Warren G. Harding

James Cox

H. G. Wells

Georges Clemenceau

Alexander Meiklejohn

William Jennings Bryan

H. L. Mencken

Nicholas Murray Butler

Sinclair Lewis

Walter Weyl

Charles Evans Hughes

Dwight W. Morrow

Thomas A. Edison

Candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Calvin Coolidge

Charles Townsend Copeland

Jane Addams

Theodore Roosevelt

Amelia Earhart

Newton Diehl Baker

Colonel House

Louis D. Brandeis

William Borah

Woodrow Wilson

William Allen White

Henry Wallace

Alfred Smith

Harry Hopkins

Mahatma Gandhi

Harold Ickes

Charles de Gaulle

Dag Hammarskjold

J. William Fulbright

Pope John XXIII

Herbert Hoover

Adlai Stevenson

Konrad Adenauer

John F. Kennedy

Eugene McCarthy

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