Second Quote of the Day, WikiLeaks Edition

“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
— James Madison

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Terrye says:

    I am sorry, but I am not sure I know what that has to do with anything. I mean come on Wikileaks is not the Federalist Papers. In fact, Assange could not even manage to release these documents without taking a swipe at George Washington. He is just a snotty little anti American lefty.
    So maybe I am missing something in the quote, I can be very dense sometimes.

  2. Gregory says:

    I agree with Terrye’s point, but for a different reason.  Leaking information is a selective process, and information is generally leaked with some sort of agenda, often aimed at manipulating public opinion without seeming to.  Insofar as Wikileaks opens some stock of information, it contributes in a very small way to giving citizens the ability to acquire that information.  but, it is highly selective, and does not give us information about what we citizens might in fact need the most: information about what goes on in highly repressive, even totalitarian regimes and movements.  When we decide what our policies ought to be, shouldn’t the American people be well-informed about what alternative and hostile regimes are in fact like?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Madison was president during the War of 1812.  So far as I can recall, he wasn’t known for widely disseminating state secrets.

  4. Terrye says:

    However, governments have never made all correspondence open to everyone at all times. If not the ability to keep secrets and guard information the United States would never have come into existence.
    I doubt very much if James Madison would think that releasing correspondence between state department functionaries or analysts about the viability of an Iranian nuclear program or the likelihood of war on the Korean peninsula would have had anything to do with individual liberty.