Lying Is Not Noble

Plato presented the idea of the “Noble Lie” in his book “the Republic.” The idea, in politics, is a Noble Lie is an untruth knowingly told by an elite to advance an agenda. We see many of these today. Dr. Anthony Fauci is key proponent of the technique. He is not alone, every government spokesperson seems capable.

Is it useful

Plato raised the question of whether such a lie has a useful purpose and whether it is necessary to make progress. How should we address that question? Plato and philosophers like Leo Strauss have discussed it and came to no certain conclusion. Maybe you should think about it. Are there conditions under which you would prefer the government lie to get some project approved

Where the Noble Lie fits

Honesty is the best policy, but if you are running a government or a bureaucracy it seems to have become “Honesty may be the best policy, but it is not company policy.”

Assume the Noble Lie is sometimes necessary.

Maybe in times of war. Churchill had a handle on the idea, “”In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” “

Given that thought, what guidelines should we impose so the technique is not misused?

  1. The liar must be noble. In simplest expression they are not lying for personal or administrative advantage.
  2. The lie must not be to promote an ideology that the people do not support in significant numbers.
  3. The lie must support something the people do support in significant numbers.
  4. The lie could be to deceive and enemy.
  5. The noble lie must be very rare.

Why is the Noble Lie common?

Not all Noble Lies are truly noble. Sometimes we find them used for reasons like these.

  1. The people generally wouldn’t agree with the liar if they told the truth, but the liar thinks their position is unassailable. The lie is to convince the dumb people who might get in the way
  2. The lie covers up an earlier mistake.
  3. The lie is to speed up implementation without necessary examination and evaluation.
  4. The lie provides some advantage to a preferred associate.

Arrogance, selfishness, power-seeking, and impatience seem to be the most common motivators for lying.

Where the Noble Lie leads

In the beginning the Nobel Lie is to achieve a good not easily or quickly obtained any other way.

Once that seems to work, the technique becomes more common and is often ideologically driven rather than consensus driven. That begins to happen as the people in charge begin to see themselves as the smarter of the crowd and are unwilling to tolerate noise from the little people.

Eventually it becomes a habit.

“The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.”   Elena Gorokhova, A Mountain of Crumbs

Where should we fit?

We should be careful when believe the truth is purposely altered.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn knew about lies. His thought on the matter is both useful and clear.

“For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist. Like parasites, they can only survive when attached to a person. We are not called upon to step out onto the square and shout out the truth, to say out loud what we think—this is scary, we are not ready. But let us at least refuse to say what we do not think!”

First we must recognize lies and then we must renounce the liar. My father-in-law’s fiercest criticism was “He’d tell a lie when the truth would serve better.” Eventually it is just that dumb.

The takeaway

Someone who lies 20% of the time does not have 80% credibility. How many of you believe what the government spokespeople and the media pundits have to say.

Lying, even with Noble Lies, is a tactic. When it stops working people stop using it. Solzhenitsyn’s parasite idea. When you hear lies ignore them. Use common sense and most will evaporate.

The person who hears and accepts the lie is the one who gives it substance. There is no rule that says you must believe what you hear. People have a right to free speech, but there is no right to have anyone take their speech seriously. Or to even listen. People stop using lies when people ignore them.

Demand truth.

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