Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

December 30, 2013

The Thirteen Lessons of 2013

By David K. Shipler

            1. Every solution creates at least one new problem. (Obamacare.)

            2. The natural alternative to autocracy is more autocracy, not democracy. (Egypt.)

            3. The initial result of revolution is anarchy. (Syria, Libya.)

4. Radical ideas can survive the ballot box. (Tea Party.)

5. The threat of compromise is less satisfying than the threat of warfare. (Iran, Israel.)

6. Racism is animated, not eliminated, by electing a black president. (Obama.)

7. I am willing to sacrifice your civil liberties for my safety. (NSA.)

8. Children of low-wage parents should go hungry. (Food stamps.)

9. The common sense of the people is filtered out by the journey to Washington. (Congress.)

10. Party stands above country. (House Republicans.)

11. Coarseness cures the malady of nuance. (Fox News.)

12. Accumulated knowledge and skill are rarely applied in practice. (Global warming, poverty, etc.)

13. The future is imprisoned by the present.


  1. Dave - I always enjoy reading your column, even if I don't agree with all of it (that would be no fun!). I do have to question your favorite quote though. Moynihan's well-known assertion that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts" may be catchy, but is untrue. Fact is there are lots of facts, all of them literally true, and many leading to opposite conclusions. The key is to figure out which ones are relevant in a given situation. The quote is usually used by people who then proceed to tell you that their facts matter, and yours don't. This does not advance intelligent discourse. In my humble opinion.

    1. Tim, you're quite right, of course. We all select our facts to suit our viewpoints, and one problem of current debate is the intolerance for others' facts. (Another current problem is made-up "facts," though.) As a journalist who likes the contradictions and ambiguities of reality, I think that "facts" include all facts about an issue, not just some of them. I believe that would be in the spirit of what Moynihan had in mind.