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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 45 of the original edition of Walter Lippmann’s in-places flawed but deeply insightful and important 1937 book, The Good Society (footnotes deleted):

In the realm of ideas a change in theory is reflected in practice only after a lapse of time and, as Mr. Keynes has said, the active men of the epoch are generally applying the theories of men who are long since dead. Thus Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, and before his death in 1790 two English Prime Ministers, Lord Shelburne and William Pitt, had been converted to his ideas. Yet it was not until 1846 that the Corn Laws were repealed, and the free-trade system was not established until Gladstone brought in his budgets of 1853 and 1860. This great reversal of policy was the outcome of a change in European thinking which took about seventy-five years to affect the policies of governments.

In that period the liberal philosophy was ascendant.

DBx: If you want lasting change in society – if you want to shift the Overton Window – your only hope lies in your preferred philosophy becoming ascendant. Ideas must change. And for ideas to change the way people talk (and write, and report, and blog, and tweet) must change. So, too, must there be change in the ways teachers teach.

Unfortunately, there is no simple recipe for changing ideas in your preferred direction. Nor is there any guarantee that even the most-promising efforts to change ideas in your preferred direction will work. But these realities are no excuse to sit on the sidelines. If you are (as I hope) a liberal, support the production, polishing, and promoting of liberal ideas. There are many different ways to do so. In your personal engagements, do not be afraid to take the liberal position. Also, find those persons and organization that you believe offer the best hope of not only defending, but also of furthering, liberal ideas. Support these persons and organizations. (Here’s one way.)

Detecting change in your preferred direction is difficult to the point of being nearly impossible; after all, such change is very slow. But as my late GMU Econ colleague Bob Tollison would often say, “We’re all part of the equilibrium” – by which he meant that the climate of ideas (and, hence, the trend of policy) would be worse, if undetectably so, if any individual who produces, polishes, promotes, and pronounces in his or her daily affairs the ideas that you embrace did not do so, or did so to a lesser extent.

Ideas do indeed matter. Greatly.

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