"information is the currency of democracy"

geoffrey nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Dec 22 03:20:31 UTC 2010

In connection with a course we're  teaching, my colleague Paul Duguid asked me about a sentence in a recent Guardian commentary on Wikilieaks by Ralph Nader:

> Wasn't it Jefferson who said that "information is the currency of democracy" and that, given a choice between government and a free press, he'll take the latter?

> http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/dec/16/julian-assange-wikileaks-eric-holder

That sentence is attributed to Jefferson all over the web, but the earliest cite Paul been able to find for it is from a 12/31/71 NYT op-ed called "The Underachievements of Congress" by... wait for it.... Ralph Nader, where it's not attributed: "If information is the currency of democracy, it is time to apply that principle to the sinews of citizenship involvement with their representatives in Congress."

Is this, as we suspect, one of those quotations that grew an eminent early progenitor late in the game? Or did Jefferson really say something like this?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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