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History disheveled

In today's print edition of the Wall Street Journal, Quentin Letts discusses the possibility that England and Scotland may march away from the Union that united them almost three centuries ago. Along the way, Letts dishevels history. He remarks that Scottish scientific know-how created the British Empire.

Never mind whether that’s good or bad, it’s not true. Brits from all parts of Britain were involved in creating the inventions that built the empire and much of what we depend on in the modern world today, as a glance at the Ingenious Timeline suggests.

What’s dangerous about factual derangements, a friend told me, is that we base important decisions on them. We think newspapers have the facts, and we make terrible decisions when we elect politicians. We think politicians have the facts, and we find ourselves without pensions. We think we have the facts, and find too late they were fantasies, lovely but limp.