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Attempt to Get Facts Right

by on June 9, 2011

When we speak about a subject, it is usually a subject we have knowledge of. If it is a conversation about a subject whose topic we started, it is likely that we know the topic exists. But will we get facts right? If another person begins a conversation about a topic, we must educate ourselves about the topic, sometimes in mid-conversation. But will we facts right? More importantly, if we are running for political office, or had that honor in the past, will we get facts right? Will we even try?

Well into the twentieth century a preponderance of our presidents read Latin, quoted Milton and Shakespeare, and drew from an immense mental repository of human history in making crucial decisions of state. The founding fathers, to a man, regarded themselves as latter-day Roman Republicans, and often signed their letters to one another as Cato, Publius, Cicero, etc. They understood that the revolution they undertook was not singular, but part of an ongoing struggle for human liberty that predated their efforts and would continue long after.

Presidents look to the actions of their predecessors for guidance and warning. Beyond that, with a wider field to draw from, they also look to events seemingly remote, yet crucial: the English Civil War, Alexander’s campaigns in Persia, the legal reforms of Justinian. A greater knowledge of history means a broader field of precedents, and thus better-informed decisions. This does not guarantee success, as for every precedent there is usually one to counter it. But to argue that ignorance is preferable — or even possible — is to hand the controls of the jet to a five-year-old.

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From → On the Dole

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