Kay on Galileo

by F.

Ah, John Kay’s column in the FT—such a refreshing oasis of sanity. Preach, John:

The phenomenon of Galileo’s telescope – the intention to see only what one expects to see – is pervasive in politics, business and finance. The capacity to observe things as they are, even if the implications are unwelcome, is often a recipe for unhappiness and professional isolation. As it was for Galileo. Or David Kelly, the British weapons scientist who killed himself over Iraq.

The prosperous figures in Galileo’s Italy are the courtiers, who benefit from the princely and papal largesse. Their analogues today are professional advisers. I will never forget presenting a view of future electricity prices to a roomful of lawyers, bankers and consultants, all hoping to act in a deal to buy power stations. They were willing the number to be high. No one wanted to look through Galileo’s telescope at what was really there: they sought only the reassurance of what they wanted to hear.

More here.