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