Paul Johnson Quote

“The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.”

~ Paul Johnson


Ratings and Comments


Eric, Wichita, KS

Like the "common knowledge" that the fall of Rome was caused by being too militaristic, rather than the hedonistic rot that Rome's people fell into, and the glib assumption that the 'Pax Romana' did not depend upon the might of Rome's armies, but the even-handedness of Roman law and the courts. Our liberal brothers of today should study this.

E Archer, NYC

Yes, like any number of proposals for centralizing more collective power into fewer hands (to save time and money supposedly) in order that we may give up certain personal rsponsibilities to others to take care of for us. Of course the price is merely a few unalienable rights that were too burdensome in the first place -- better we leave it up to 'authorities' to protect us, feed us, employ us, house us, etc. -- "they" know what they are doing, right?

Dick, Fort Worth

A good quote but I can see it is read quite differently by different people. An addendum to it should be "studied with an open mind."

Joe, Rocheste, MI

If it were an antidote to contemporary arrogance, our politicians would be humble instead of the arrogant bastards they are.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

Yes, we should study history and learn from it, this allows us to avoid fiascoes like Vietnam II (oops, I mean invading Iraq for oil while telling lies to the world). But it is also the case that this should not prevent us from learning from this study, correcting our assumptions and moving forward... something today's common shrub is incapable of.

Anonymous, Lafayette, La

In this time of so-called 'progressives', this quote has great value. There is nothing new or novel being debated today. We need only look at history.

Hayek, Dover, NH

Mr Johnson seems to have struck a cord with those of a leftist lean. Those on the left never cared much for history, and care not what destruction their tired ill conceived ideas have caused. Thus, they hate the quote, mostly because it exposes the hollowness and ignorance of their whole philosophy. Progressives look forward only and are arrogant enough to think they have nothing to learn from history.

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