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The facts do not owe their origin to an act of authorship.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Feist v Rural Telephone, 1991)

But does the hunt, the research, the interviews? Or perhaps its organization into a story for the dissemination to a reading public? And can these be made exclusive? These questions have bubbled up as the newspaper industry wrestles with what the internet is doing to their business.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz has argued fervently about the rights of authors and their newspapers to capitalize on their product. She came out against “the aggregators” as though they were a malfeasant band of marauders bent on destroying the institution of journalism and by extension democracy. Citing Daniel and David Marburger, she claimed, “parasitic aggregators reprint or rewrite newspaper stories, making the originator redundant and drawing ad revenue away from newspapers at rates the publishers can’t match.”

James Moroney, publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News takes a similar approach. He invokes the ‘hot news’ doctrine and asks congress to apply it to the internet. Says Moroney, “perhaps it is time for congress to establish a principle of ‘consent for content’ for breaking news–similar to the ‘hot news’ doctrine recognized by a few states.”

Copyright law sufficed to protect the written word, fixed in a medium, but these claims demand remedy for a larger issue. They aim to protect the investment required to collect the facts and write a story, when it might easily be re-written and distributed by another. But they ask for monopoly control of the story itself — indeed, ownership of the collection of facts and ideas that might make up a breaking story on government corruption, for example. Justice O’Connor, however, finishes with little support for these views: “The distinction is between one of creation and one of discovery.” And discovery is not subject to property rights.

The viewpoints of Moroney, Schultz and the Marburgers have their origin in the nature of print. Print leads to a confusion between controlling the medium and controlling the content – that is, the mistaken idea that breaking a story equates to owning it. The Supreme Court compounded the confusion in 1918 with its decision to augment copyright protection with “quasi-property rights” for the facts and events that make up a news story — the hot news doctrine. It was a legal solution for the disruptive impact of a new technology: newswires. News was paper, and these rights formalized the metaphor. They derived from the physical qualities of the paper, attached property rights to the news and would provide a legal basis from which to make, in this case, the AP’s news exclusive. Theoretically, the AP could then exclude people from learning of it or reprinting it without permission. They wouldn’t just report the news, they would own the news. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge, instead of being bound up in books and kept in libraries and retirements, is thus obtruded upon the publick
Spectator no. 507 on the Spectator, 1711

One imagines the libraries and retirements encircling prized volumes. Access is limited. The doors are closed on hushed, dark rooms, and rude custodians may or may not respond to the knocks of visitors. The lively entertainments of the mind, pressed flat and laid up in shelves, are collected — excluded from the general population. Mr. Spectator lights up these entertainments, unbinds them from their pages, and sends them around the room and into society. He obtrudes them upon the public.

The pseudonymous Mr. Spectator offers a voice that would direct many of the discussions of the day, through education and entertainment, in 18th Century London. His daily issue, launched and written by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele 1711, would be called The Spectator.

Addison & Steele’s Spectator boasted a distribution of 3000, through hawkers and mercuries, and a readership upwards of 40,000: “every page submitted to the Tast of forty or fifty thousand Readers” [No.508]. But the finances were unclear and, at best, shaky. The paper, which paused mid-stream for a substantial hiatus, only lasted just over six hundred issues.

The optimism is palpable, but the rewards were not. The nascent newspaper was more likely to lose money than make anyone rich. More often than not, publishers struggled to make the business work while slowly draining their investors. The Spectator was among an exceptional few to survive the tax increase of the Stamp Act. Their story, however, is surprisingly similar to what we see in today’s shift to digital media.

What Addison & Steele and others discovered was mass media, a new media in its own right. Then as now, their efforts derived from changes in regulation and technology and competed with the traditional forum for news – the pulpit then, and newspapers today, for example. The competition among dailies divided the public into publics, each driven by the tastes and temperaments of its readers. These early dailies changed the public’s relationship to knowledge and brought it out of libraries and retirements in the same way that today’s new media brings news out of the newspapers, for example, and generally enlarges the free-marketplace of ideas.

Addison & Steele’s budding media empire flourished when placed in the hands of the audience. Today’s newspapers and magazines would have you believe the same, but it’s distinguished in one key way. It has built up a dependence on paid circulation. This was less important than one might think for those early publications. Instead, they relied on reputation and influence at first, followed by advertising. Paid circulation was, in effect, a manner of subsidizing distribution.

Mass media’s origins in 18th century newspapers began with two developments. The speed of the printing press introduced the possibility of the daily — something unthinkable in the age of scriptoriums. The status of the written word would shift from scarcity to abundance. The dearness of a volume, which had been measured by the many hours and men required to copy it, was rapidly sliding toward the price of the paper on which it was printed. Second, with the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695, prepublication censorship ceased. Print would emerge everywhere and could include anything. Many would publish not only the inventions of the moment, they would uncover and disseminate the knowledge from those libraries and retirements — all for not much more than the price of the paper itself.

Early newspapers would supplant the pulpit and occupy an advanced position on both book publishing and the congregation. The pulpit provided the equivalent of a weekly news show. Congregations received the news once a week in a format and fashion that was faster and easier to consume than books. As Elizabeth Eisenstein observes in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, “before the advent of printing, events of significance, when reported at all, were usually conveyed from the pulpit” [p. 553]. The sermon might address world events, local trade, real estate transactions, and politics. The newspaper, however, would insert itself in the daily routine of many: “the pulpit was ultimately displaced by the periodical press” [p. 131].

If changes in regulation and technology leading up to the 18th century fostered the sudden supply of publications, what drove the need? The demand for publications such as the Tatler, the Spectator, the Craftsman, the London Daily Post emerged as a genie from a bottle. The public wanted newspapers. They wanted something different than the weekly lessons and announcements from the pulpit. Eisenstein remarks, “the dictum ‘nothing sacred’ came to characterize the journalist’s career” [p. 131]: it wasn’t the church. Instead, among the teeming dailies, one could choose the the right one for one’s self. Dailies didn’t just discover an interested public, they discovered interested publics, each with their own tastes and preferences.

Addison & Steele’s ambition to serve a reading public changes society’s relationship to knowledge. Knowledge would no longer be exclusive. Obtruded upon the publick, it would reach into new corners of society to be consumed, critiqued, and engaged. Addison & Steele’s Mr. Spectator would write in Spectator no. 10, “I have brought philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses.” The Spectator would be one of many vehicles for this change, and distribution would drive it to thousands in 18th century London.

The Spectator would mine the libraries, his competitors, and the conversations at the coffee-houses for the facts and ideas behind each missive. The collected ore would only be valuable inasmuch as it would capture the attention of his readers. With the diversity and detail of the web, today’s contributors mine newspapers, magazines, books, official announcements, and just about anything they can get their hands on. One might characterize these as transactions in the free marketplace of ideas, but then as now, they sparked controversy. Just as the pulpit may have been upset with the rise of the newspaper, traditional media finds itself frustrated by the thousand-fold rehashing and reinvention of the facts and ideas that had once seemingly been their province alone.

The public begins as the recipient of the shifting relationship to knowledge, but they also become the object. The Spectator, for example, took the public as a specimen under its lens. Mr. Spectator is among them, observing them, surveying them, and refracting everything back through its daily issue. Jurgen Habermas would later claim, in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, “in the Tatler, the Spectator, and the Guardian the public held up a mirror to itself.” The public could see itself through these early papers and have a “conversation with itself.”

Today’s changes in technology and a mindset rooted in net-neutrality and open systems have yielded similar innovations. The internet, blogs, and increasingly creative media ventures that have become substitutes and complements to traditional media. Both moments yielded an efflorescence of expression that was fertilized by rapidly diminished costs and threatened to supplant existing institutions: the congregation and traditional media. And both moments relied on the ability to rehash and reinvent the accumulated knowledge of their time to fill their pages, virtual or otherwise. The resulting fragmentation of readers would replay many of the changes ushered in with the the early 18th century dailies.

Could these early publishers charge for this? Barely. What would matter for Addison & Steele and their counterparts today was the audience, and their success would not be measured in how much people paid for the content, but in the reputation they developed and the ability to advance the interests of the proprietor and their investors.

The Spectator built Addison’s reputation. He wasn’t concerned that his readership far exceeded the paid circulation by more than ten-fold: the more, the better. His reputation among them would provide other opportunities. The Spectator, after all, was his second publication. It followed the Tatler, and it was his reputation that enabled him to do both. Later, he would harvest these efforts through the sale of bound volumes of each.

We see something similar with blogs such as Joel on Software, which was later published as a series of books. Combined, the blog and books undergird his company’s credibility as a leading software developer, which has led to ventures such as Stack Overflow. Meanwhile, Brad Setser’s consistently trenchant, though not always well edited, observations on currency flows from the Council on Foreign Relations ultimately led him to a position in the White House, and Julie Powell’s musings on Julia Child morphed into a book deal, a movie, personal complications, followed by another book deal.

Investors in early newspapers sought influence and profits through circulation. More often than not, they may have found influence, but not the profits. The paper, however, was well-suited to advancing their individual interests. They may have been merchants or theater owners, so they would use their position to obtain better advertising rates, coverage or otherwise. Michael Harris, in London Newspapers in the Age of Walpole, remarks: “the efficacy of the papers as vehicles for house advertisements could more than offset a limited return.” In these cases, the newspaper is an agent for the partners’ agenda: providing owners a venue to advertise their establishments.

Fred Wilson’s blog has slowly impressed him upon the New York venture community in a way that uniquely positions his venture capital firm among investors and entrepreneurs. Michael Arrington’s thriving conference business owes its origin to Techcrunch. Barry Ritholtz has leveraged The Big Picture to cultivate an asset management business. The reputations in each of these examples drive a venture-investment business, a conference business, and an asset management firm.

Addison & Steele’s were early days in the newspaper business. They and others managed to advance the reputation and interests of themselves and their investors. Soon, however, they would make a dramatic realization. If they could do it for themselves, they could certainly do it for others, and they would have a third leg on which to stand. Doing so would require a dramatic leap: they would have to sell the audience. They would invent advertising as we know it.

Advertising started as the province of the proprietor and his investors. Advertisements were a privilege bundled with ownership – house advertisements. We see advertisements for booksellers, who may have been investors or close associates. But this would change. Just as blogs have been festooned with advertisements, early newspapers would realize that the audience might also be valuable beyond the proprietor and his investors.

The first advertisements in the Spectator were almost an afterthought. They showcased books that their printer, Sam Buckley, or his friends had printed. In Lawrence Lewis’sThe Advertisements of the Spectator, he observes, “As the circulation of the ‘Spectator’ increased among ‘the quality,’ the example of the booksellers was followed, first by the mercers and haberdashers, then by the dealers in snuffs and wines and teas, by quacks and sellers of cosmetics and nostrums for every human ill, and, finally, by the managers of places of amusement.”

Advertisers began to include not just partners, but interested parties. Advertisements for soap or perfume joined those of the booksellers. Harris observes, “by the mid-1720s the amount of space devoted to this material was provoking some vigorous criticism.” By the mid-1720’s, early newspapers had meaningfully unbundled the privilege of advertising from ownership. For the first time, anyone who wanted an audience could access one. The audience became a service to be delivered:the newspaper, a the service provider.

Early newspapers, like new media, flourish when they’re in the hands of an audience. They flourish when they enhance the reputation and influence of their proprietors and, through advertising, others — not because they’ve been charged for it, but because of the externalities that develop from an engaged, reading public. If that’s the case, should The Spectator have become a free publication and follow today’s flat dictum that information wants to be free?

Addison & Steele never conceived of giving the Spectator away, but it’s worth wondering if they would today. They were thrilled to claim a total readership of more than ten times the paying readers, but would they give those paying readers up? Probably not. Addison & Steele’s circulation pattern provides an early example of versioning in information goods. Hal Varian explains versioning as a pricing method for information goods that sorts potential customers based on the quality of the good that they need. In Addison’s case, those who absolutely needed The Spectator would buy it on its first run. Those who could wait would pick up copies from friends or a table at Button’s coffee-house.

Versioning, however, works differently today. The internet has no equivalent to picking up a newspaper from the table at Button’s or the floor of the subway. If there is, it’s in the form of passed links, aggregators, and comments and analysis that show up on blogs. But unlike with The Spectator, or even a paper copy of The New York Times, the chain generally does not begin with an initial sale. The first version is either free or behind a pay-wall: either available or not. It isn’t sold and read, only to be left on the coffee-house table. And if it’s behind a pay-wall, barring any individual indiscretions with copyright, there is no second version for someone to pick up. By analogy, it would mean Addison’s reliance on a readership of 3000, not 40,000. What would that do to his ability to monetize his following? It certainly would have impacted his influence.

The consternation about pay-walls that has captured the current imagination is fundamentally a question about versioning. The New York Times and Newsday and others are looking for the digital equivalent to the table at Button’s coffee-house. What model will allow them to sell a first-version? The physical paper provided a solution, but the shift to digital does not invoke an obvious replacement. And a pay-wall risks severely limiting their audience and influence.

Many online media ventures have avoided the issue entirely by offering one version, free of charge, to their audience. Passed links, blog-mentions, aggregators and others provide the digital equivalent of shared and found newspapers – the digital coffeehouse. Their influence can grow with the appeal and availability of their perspective. Considering half of the Spectator‘s circulation revenue went to the Stamp Tax, after the cost of printing and paper, there was very little left over for the owners, so there would be very little difference between being a free publication on the internet and a paid publication in print. An online Spectator would probably be a free Spectator: today’s raft of free blogs and new media ventures, its inheritors.

The Spectator and early newspapers would evolve into the inky reams that we know today, but it turns out that they may be a closer cousin to today’s emerging media landscape. Both moments fostered marginal businesses that owed their origin to dramatic changes in technology and a change in regulation, in the case of the Licensing Act, and a mind-set, in the case of net-neutrality and open systems that dominates the web. Neither looked like any newspaper that we would recognize in the 20th century, but they would go on to change society’s relationship to knowledge and disrupt traditional sources of information, from the pulpit then to institutions such as modern newspapers now. Their economic success for lay in the ability to derive externalities from their audience in the form of reputation and, later, advertising.

A bright line, however, still separates our modern print publications and the inheritors of The Spectator: the ability to version. The ability to version on the internet has proved difficult to incorporate and become a painful reminder of the many differences between print and the digital medium. What is the digital equivalent to the 18th century coffeehouse? Encouragingly, the New York Times recently answered with the announcement of its paywall strategy. If it’s passed to you, by twitter or a friend, please read it; otherwise, pay. You’re either a patron or a coffeehouse. Perhaps invoking the spirit of Addison and Steele will reinvigorate their prospects.

Rising deficits. Burgeoning questions about economic recovery. A long shadow of war and conflict. These issues sound familiar today, but they share a common thread with the story of Eubulus in the fourth century BC in Athens.

The Athenian economy and culture had come undone. The war between the Greeks and Thebes had stretched on for many years and nearly bankrupted them politically and financially. The once tight control over the Greek city-states exerted by Sparta and Athens had withered with defeats in Leuctra in 371 and Mantinea in 362 BC, followed by the Social War. It was at that time that Eubulus took control of the Theoric Fund and engineered a remarkable recovery, the benefits of which accrued to both himself and Athens.

We find in Eubulus one of the first technocrats. Rather than pursue an imperialist policy bent on tributes, he recovers the Athenian economy through trade and investment. He incorporates the latest thinking on government and the economy from the likes of Xenophon. But today many remember him as a weak and corrupt precursor to the vigorous rise of Demosthenes and his noble resistance to Philip II of Macedon.

The Eubouleus Marble, a Roman copy after a Greek original

Today, the United States finds itself in similar circumstances. War. Economic despair. With the Obama Administration, we have a technocrat and his company in the Whitehouse. And we see the same clash, but this time, the press might call them populists or, perhaps, Republicans. Replace Demosthenes with Richard Shelby or Dick Cheney and shift the subject to the turmoil in the economy or the pervasive threat of terrorism and al Quaeda. Does the Obama administration face the same fate as Eubulus?

Eubulus gained broad influence over Athenian finances and politics through control of the Theoric fund. It is suggested that Pericles had instituted the fund to provide for festivals and various state expenditures. Perhaps most potent was the control over the amusements of the multitude. These captured the imagination of the citizens of Athens and distracted them from their wretched state. Control of the Theoric fund meant control over the access to and production of these events.

Though the appeal of free tickets may have helped Eubulus enhance his position among Athenians, unlike conventional descriptions from Britannica, for example, it did not figure greatly in his rise to power. Following the Social War, which ran from 357 to 355, the annual revenue of the Theoric fund had dropped to hardly 130 talents and hardly warranted the attention of ambitious Athenian politicians, such as Demosthenes. Moreover, election to the Fund only lasted one year.

Eubulus’ rise to power marked a decisive shift in statesmanship. Through careful maneuvering, Eubulus converted the Theoric fund to the Theoric Commission. The details are unclear on how he accomplished this, but he effectively came to control the Athenian finances in their entirety. He then focused on two things. First, to increase the revenues of the state and bring about some financial stability. Second, to increase the general prosperity of all Athenians. Both of these ambitions, however, would be approached in an entirely new way, one similar to that described by the recent publication Xenophon’s On Revenues (355 BC).

Xenophon’s On Revenues argued that Athenian wealth depended on trade, not tributes. His realization ran counter to the common wisdom. Most Athenians viewed their imperial tendency as the mainspring of their wealth, and poorer Athenians believed this most vigorously. City-states that did not pay signaled lost opportunities and the continuation of the poor’s mean condition.

Xenophon proposed creating a fund to finance the engines of trade. Citizens would contribute, and “most of the Athenians will receive annually more than they have contributed.” The fund would make investments in trade and the infrastructure related to trade. These investments would result in increased state revenues, a growing economy, and the resulting wealth of the Athenians. Xenophon said, “the more people settled among us and visited us, the greater the quantity of merchandise, it is evident, would be imported, exported, and sold, and the more gain would be secured and tribute received.”

For ancient Athens, Xenophon’s ideas were a meaningful departure from the policy of imperialism and the rapacious collection of tributes. Rather than rely on the grinding effort of collecting revenues from other city-states, Xenophon proposed that Athenian economic growth through trade would more than suffice. Indeed, he specifically argued against tributes and the military adventurism that they required: “if the full revenues from the state are to be collected, there must be peace.”

Eubulus engaged Xenophon’s ideas in earnest and perhaps also improved upon them. He set about three major changes to stimulate the economy, drive revenues, and enhance prosperity. First, he moved forward with taxing the Metics, who were resident aliens in Athens. Second, he invested in the encouragement of trade and traders. Third, he raised money for direct investment in capital projects, such as the repair of walls, ports, and other facilities to stimulate the economy, support trade, and improve the lot of Metics and citizens alike.

The results would speak for themselves. Rather than raising money through eisphora–essentially tax-increases, or levies–Eubulus financed his policies with direct borrowing, so it would present less of a strain on the citizens. By the year 346, the revenues had increased to 400 talents a year, almost thirty times the revenue when he introduced the Theoric Commission in 355 and took control of the Athenian finances. And just as Xenophon suggested, he continued to pay out a small amount to Athenians every year.

Joseph Addison’s Mr. Spectator would bring Eulubus the technocrat to life in 18th century London as a paragon of the Spectator’s audience: the emerging middle class. He eulogized Eubulus in Spectator [no. 49] as one who “presides over the middle Hours of the Day.” He holds reign over the Men formed for Society, whose “Entertainments are derived rather from Reason than Imagination.” They met after those in the morning rose, met in the coffee-houses and “published their laziness,” and before the Monarchs of the afternoon or Tom the Tyrant in the evening.

The Eubulus figure at midday is the embodiment of the Addison’s trader and business-man of the coffee-house. He approaches decisions with dispassion and a keen focus on the economic end: “He does not consider in whose Hands his Mony will improve most, but where it will do most good.” These qualities engender loyalty and ambition to “speak after him” and be “wise in his sentences.” Mr. Spectator would say of those that followed his Eubulus: “Every Man is Eubulus as soon as his Back is turned.”

But just as leadership in Mr. Spectator’s metaphor would shift to the Monarchs of the afternoon or Tom the Tyrant in the evening, the political climate would change for Eubulus in 4th century Athens. The growing wealth of the Theoric fund began to arouse interest in Demosthenes, who hadn’t paid any attention to the Theoric Commission in 355. By 349, however, Demosthenes began to pressure Eubulus to finance an expedition to Olynthus, and the subsequent record of his speeches illustrate the depth of his ambitions and the measure of his opposition to Eubulus and his allies only grew as he pushed for military funds.

Demosthenes sounded the alarm for Philip II of Macedon’s steady approach on Greece, and Eubulus became his foil. Athens faced a real, existential threat from Philip, so caution was warranted, and Demosthenes argued ceaselessly and credibly for intervention. Eubulus had also made a strategic error. Between 355 and 351, Eubulus passed a law that mandated all excess revenues of the state would pass to the Theoric Commission, not the military’s stratiotic fund. Theoric funds could not be applied to military adventures and expenditures, and those that did would be put to death. According to Demosthenes, Eubulus had hamstrung the people.Demosthenes

While the Theoric Commission had done much to improve the Athenian finances, it also paid a dividend to the citizens. Demosthenes would suggest that these payments amounted to a bribe. The citizens were reluctant to give up their individual gain for the greater good. In the First Olynthians, Demosthenes begged, “With regard to the supply of money, you have money, men of Athens; you have more than any other nation has for military purposes. But you appropriate it yourselves, to suit your own pleasure.” By implication, the policies of Eubulus enervated the citizens by giving succor to their selfishness.

Historians would take up Demosthenes’ criticism and mine a thick vein of contempt for the policies of Eubulus. He became the flatterer, a man of the multitude, a man of money, not the military. Eubulus brought on, whole cloth, the decline and fall of Athens on Philip’s approach. In Matthew Arnold’s Numbers, he would quote an unnamed, though temperate German historian: “The grandeur and loftiness of Attic democracy had vanished, while all the pernicious germs contained in it were fully developed. A life of comfort and a craving for amusement were encouraged in every way, and the interest of citizens was withdrawn from serious things.” John Gillies’, in his History, called Eubulus “an artful flatterer of the multitude,” and said, “it was vain for Demosthenes to resist the popular torrent.” The 1910 Britannica laid its own accusations: “there is no doubt that he took advantage of his position to make use of the material forces of the state for his own aggrandizement.” And Theopompus of Chios, writing during Eubulus’ time in his Philippica, claimed, “Eubulus raised a great deal of money and distributed it to the Athenieans, and in consequence the city became exceedingly cowardly and exceedingly lazy during his administration.”

Plutarch would remember Demosthenes as the sole countervailing force to Philip’s advance. Eubulus hardly appears, and in his place stands the firm, steady hand of Demosthenes and his constant warnings of Philip. In his Lives, Plutarch writes, “We have nothing of this kind to say against Demosthenes, as one who would turn aside or prevaricate, either in word or deed.” Instead, Demosthenes rises as one who can make difficult, unpopular decisions: “he pursuades his fellow-citizens to pursue not that which seems most pleasant, easy, or profitable; but declares over and over again, that they ought in the first place to prefer that which is just and honorable, before their own safety and preservation.” Though many, including Eubulus, would experience Demosthenes’ attacks, Philip remained his focus.

But are these criticisms of Eubulus warranted? Yes, the Athenians were unable to repel Philip. He took Olynthus in 348 and would soon force Athens into the embarrassing Peace of Philocrates. But it was not because Athens could not advance its military, they merely had to change the law or raise a levy on the citizens. Moreover, Professor G.L. Cawkwell at Oxford has argued that a defense of Olynthus would have been a military disaster. He also shows that far from starving the military, it grew under Eubulus’ administration. Cawkwell would conclude that, no matter the rhetoric, Athens was merely out-classed militarily and politically by Philip. They could not win, for the circumstances were set against them.The circumstances, however, would provide Demosthenes his foil and color Eubulus and his company an enemy of Athens. Whether he deserved the charge did not matter.

Demosthenes’ passion and his speeches overruled history’s favorable treatment of Eubulus. Eubulus would be known as a technocrat who captured the finances and administration of Athens but lacked the gall to make hard decisions, stir the languishing tendencies of the majority, and face down the true problems of the state. The details that Cawkwell would surface were too soon overrun by the speeches of Demosthenes, his followers, and those that would wish to tell the tale. Arnold would write of Eubulus’ Athens: “Plato was right afterall: the majority were bad and the remnant were impotent.” Eubulus would become synonymous with this impotence and the fall of Athens. Eubulus, however, was neither impotent nor responsible for the fall of Athens, but with Athens no match for Philip, Eubulus’ accomplishments would be no match for the passion and speeches of Demosthenes.

When Demosthenes finally met Philip II of Macedon, he was said to have fainted at the sight of him. The man who Plutarch introduced as the accomplished orator, the one who overcame stammering pronunciation by speaking with pebbles in his mouth, who recited speeches while running or going up steep places, so he could discipline his voice, was so overwhelmed by Philip that he crumpled to the floor.

Demosthenes captured the hearts and minds of many with his warnings and imprecations, but he failed to be the statesman that was Eubulus. His only success was in the failure of Athens and Greece to hold back Philip, for he would become known as the one relentlessly exercised over Philip’s advances. Athens’ failure would be Eubulus’ failure, and the blame would work to embellish his story with tales of corruption and weakness.

Today, we have the Obama administration. Technocrats. Their countless economic advisors. The studied decision-making before committing to Afghanistan. The appeals to reason on and practical pursuit of healthcare reform. The Keynesian logic behind the economic stimulus package. Each decision and initiative was flanked by support from experts and thought leaders, together evoking the story of Eubulus. Nonetheless, one only has to watch the Sunday morning news shows to see Demosthenes’ agenda played out by the vocal remnant of the Republican consensus in the hopes that Obama might be forgotten, like Eubulus, regardless of the cost.

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