When we all think alike, no one is thinking very much.

Walter Lippman was born in New York City in 1889, and studied philosophy at Harvard University, where he founded its Socialist Club and edited the Harvard Monthly. In 1911, he went to work in Theodore Roosevelt's new Progressive Party, under the tutelage of muckraker-extraordinaire Lincoln Steffens.

Along with journalist Herbert Croly, Lippman founded The New Republic in 1914, and defended the re-election campaign of Woodrow Wilson. Even though he was originally a pacifist, he agreed with Wilson's arguments that American entry into World War I was necessary to protect democracy, and in 1917 he accepted an appointment in the Department of War under Newton Baker. He coordinated the 125-man committee that advised Wilson on the postwar order, and eventually led to the creation of the Fourteen Points plan.

After the disastrous showing at Versailles, however, Lippman distanced himself from Wilson and Wilsonian progressivism, and in 1920 he abandoned the New Republic to take a post at the New York World. In 1929, he became that paper's editor. Then, in 1931, he moved to the New York Herald Tribune and wrote a column called "Today And Tomorrow," which would endure for thirty years in syndication and win two Pulitzer Prizes.

{The majority} may easily become an absurd tyranny if we regard it worshipfully, as though it were more than a political device. It has lost all of its true meaning when we imagine the opinion of 51 percent is in some high fashion the true opinion of the whole 100 percent.

Politically, Lippman was a pure pragmatist, a non-partisan commentator who supported whomever he happened to agree with at the time. He opposed the League of Nations, the Korean War, Joseph McCarthy, and the Vietnam War.

He was one of the first political scholars to seriously study the effects of public opinion on republican governments from a realist perspective. Perhaps his most famous argument in this field, for which he is only given 51 percent of the credit, is the "Almond-Lippman Thesis," which states that public opinion is both volatile and unstructured, and therefore often unsuitable as a basis for formulating policy. He also argued that people's beliefs are usually formulated from indirect and incomplete images in the media, and believed propaganda to be the single most effective tool of statecraft.

Many of Lippmann's friends suspected he would turn from journalist to politician, but he never did. He died in 1974, leaving behind a lengthy volume of books and a library's worth of periodical literature, but very little space in the history books. Then again, as he once put it:

Thinkers are mortal, but ideas are immortal.

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