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Lying Politicians

Are politicians trying to fool us, or are they just telling us the same lies we tell ourselves? It is the latter in most cases, and it is necessary for their political survival. Here is my explanation of how the process works, and why lying in Washington is probably here to stay.

One side says that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." The other side says the gun control can save lives. On each side, the politicians play to their constituents. What do none of them say? None of them can say that maybe there would be lives saved if there was more gun control, but that we have a right to have guns, so we will accept the violence that comes with them.

People want to believe that they can have everything, don't they? Politicians who tell them otherwise are party-poopers who will be un-elected. If you believe in gun control, it is difficult for you to see that there might be some issue of rights that is important. If you believe in the right to bear arms, you want to also pretend that just as many people would die in drive-by punchings. Lying politicians allow you to believe what you want, and even lie along with you.

Look at the debate over the speed limit a few years back. To be for eliminating the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, politicians and the public felt the need to argue that a higher speed limit wouldn't cost lives. We want to have everything, the truth be damned.

Think about this rationally for a moment. How many people would die in car accidents if the speed limit was strictly enforced at 15 miles-per-hour on all roads? Virtually none, and we can understand that. So whether we want to admit it or not, the speed limits we have are a balance between our desire for convenience and the reality of more deaths as the limit goes higher.

Now imagine for a moment, if a public policy maker were to put a chart on TV, outlining how many deaths there would be at each level of speed, and coldly calculating what the acceptable level of death is in exchange for our convenience and economic efficiency (things would be expensive if truckers could only go 15 MPH, right?). The public would be shocked at this process, even though t is the same one that is going on less scientifically in our collective consciousness.

We want to believe that with government all things can be had, and all things perfected, and the lying politicians aren't there to burst our bubble. Taxation is a great example. On the page about the politics of taxation I explain the fallacy that we can automatically raise more revenue by raising taxes.

If people want a welfare system that helps as many people as possible, they have to understand that taxes can't be too high, even on the rich, or less money will be collected by the government, not more. That means less money for the programs, of course. What many people really seem to want, though, is the pretense that we can take as much as we want from the rich and the corporations and have as many expenditures as we want, and all will be well.

Imagine if the most socialistic politician out there understood this. He comes out before his constituency and says, "We have scientifically determined the most efficient rate of taxation, and we must lower corporate tax rates and the income tax rates of the rich in order to increase collections. I suspect that no amount of truth here would overcome his constituents desire to both have their social programs and screw the rich. They want the lie, and there will always be a politician to serve it up.

By the way, how can you tell when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.


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Lying Politicians

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