On 23 March 1933, three weeks after Franklin D Roosevelt had been sworn in as 32nd president of the United States, the liberal journalist Walter Lippmann was invited to speak at Berkeley. These were unhappy times. The American economy was sunk in depression; the banks were tottering; millions were starving and out of work; abroad, the far right was on the march. The day before, in the little medieval town of Dachau, the Nazis had opened their first concentration camp. And even as Lippmann was getting ready for his speech, the Reichstag was debating the notorious Enabling Act, which handed unlimited power to Adolf Hitler.
At the time, the consequences were still unknown. But when Lippmann rose to address his audience, his message was grim. This, he said, was a world of extraordinary uncertainty. Reason was giving way to populism, as ‘the masses of men’, with all their fears and prejudices, flexed their political muscles.