- Stop the Presses: Politicians Lie by James Ostrowski
- Politics And Lies - Why Politicians Lie
- When Politicians Lie By Micah L. Sifry,
- To Tell The Truth, Politicians Lie
- Omygod! Politicians Lie?
- Thinking Hard About Politics Why Politicians Have To Lie
- Why Politicians Lie Anne Perkins
- Why Politicians Lie By Danny Fairfax
- Why Do Politicians Lie? Because They Have To Phillips, Melanie
- Understanding The Political System
- Politics in Corporate - Social Justice and Environmentalism
Stop the Presses: Politicians Lie
by James Ostrowski
So Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. is a liar. Big deal. Next you’re going to tell me other shocking news like: a week has seven days, two plus two is four, and cheesecake is fattening. Of course he’s a liar-he’s a politician! I am not bothered as much by Gore’s lies as I am about his truths. Gore really hasn’t lied too much about his core program and beliefs. He is going to make government much bigger and send us merrily along toward the slow death of liberty by a thousand cuts.
Are Democrats any more dishonest than their rival faction in our one-party regime, the Republicans? I go as far as to say that, in general, Democrats are more honest than Republicans are. Democrats tell us that government is a positive force for good (above and way beyond peacekeeping and dispute resolution), and they intend to make it an even bigger force for good. When they get into office, they always do as they had promised. Every Democratic president since Woodrow Wilson has increased the size and power of the federal government.
What do Republicans say? That big government stinks, rots, smells, is odoriferous. Did I say, "stinks"? They say they will cut the size of government, get government off our backs, have "no new taxes," trust the people not the government. What do they do in office? They increase the size, scope, and power of the government. Every Republican president since Herbert Hoover has increased the size and power of the federal government. Yes, even that great anarchocapitalist Ronald Reagan did so. He revved up the "war on drugs" (war on people who use drugs that are different from the ones we use). He revved up military spending. And he couldn’t even get rid of one lousy, stinking, useless agency-the Department (for the prevention) of Education.
George W. Bush, unlike his running mate Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., is not a pathological liar. There is, however, a fundamental lie at the heart of Bush ‘s program. He says he prefers the private sector to the public sector. He says he is a constitutional strict constructionist. He says he trusts the people, not the government. But he is going to increase federal control over education, expand the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act, maintain agricultural socialism, increase "federal gun prosecutions," create a new federal entitlement-prescription drugs, increase subsidies for low-income home buyers, spend "$3.6 billion to build 1,200 additional Community Health Centers," increase the size of the military, "resist the temptation to withdraw from the world," (read: maintain our global empire), and intensify the war on drugs. This man’s entire platform is a lie!
No surprise there. All mainstream politicians are liars. Politics is the art of determining how organized force is to be used in society. Force is essentially a negative thing. It destroys things and prevents things from happening. Life, however, requires the production of positives-wealth, knowledge, ethical values, social bonds. While politicians, including George W. Bush, tell the people, oxymoronically, that government can be a force for good, government cannot be such since its only tools are negative-threats, imprisonment, roadblocks, shooting, bombing, strip searches and lethal injection. Politicians continually try to convince people of the truth of a metaphysical impossibility: that violence and the threat of violence can produce wealth, peace, happiness and social harmony. As Abraham Maslow said, "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail." Both Gore and Bush intend to hammer us hard.
There is one thing government is good at: war. The negative means of government-bullets and bombs-are perfectly suited to accomplishing the negative goals of war-killing people and destroying property. Government is good at war because war is destruction, not production. Production is hard; destruction is easy. Only a genius like Frank Lloyd Wright could have built Fallingwater, a house built over a mountain stream in Southern Pennsylvania; any idiot with a few sticks of dynamite could destroy it in seconds.
So no one should be surprised that Gore and Bush are liars. America has been known to have a liar or two in the White House in recent years. Politicians lie and voters delude themselves with those lies. Politicians lie because they are greedy for power; voters are seduced by those lies because they are greedy for other people’s money.
If you gave a politician truth serum and asked him what he did for a living, he would quote Tolstoy:
"I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me and assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means – except by getting off his back."
If you gave truth serum to those who vote for these liars and asked them why they vote as they do, they would quote Frederic Bastiat who described government as "that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."
October 10, 2000
James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303.
Politics And Lies - Why Politicians Lie
Politicians lie because the public wants to be lied to
The reasons politicians lie is because the public doesn't want to hear the truth. People want to hear what they want to hear. When two candidates are running and one of the tells the truth and the other says what the public wants to hear, the one who says what the public wants to hear wins the election. Thus, and there are exceptions to this, if you want to win an election, you better start lying, because the guy who's telling you the truth doesn't have a chance.
The 1988 presidential election is an example of this. You will recall the famous lie, "Reeeaaad myyy llliiipsss, nnoooo neeewww taaaxxxeeesss" was the famous lie that Bush told over and over again. Maybe Bush could say that the public misunderstood him and he was saying "Know new Taxes". I caught it at the time. I don't know why everyone else didn't see through it.
But Bush had to tell that lie because Dukakas said that in order to reverse the Reagan deficit, there's going to have to be a tax increase. But that's not what the public wanted to hear. The public wanted to be lied to. So Bush gave the public what they wanted. But had Bush told the truth, he would have lost the election to someone who would lie. In 1988 the public didn't want to hear that the Reagan debt was real and had to be paid back.
By 1992 the situation had changed. The deficit was growing exponentially and Bush didn't have a plan. "Read my lips" wasn't going to work twice. In 1992 the voters were ready for the truth about the deficit and wanted a man with a plan on how to fix it. In this case Clinton told the truth, but the public wanted to hear the truth and the Clinton plan had merit. Clinton run and one on the issue of fixing the economy and taking fiscal responsibility. But had Clinton run in 1988 and told the truth he would have lost. In 1992, the truth worked.
However, the public didn't want to hear the whole truth. When it came to smoking Pot, Clinton didn't inhale. That lie was a mistake. I'm willing to bet serious money that Clinton got stoned. The think is that we in America are living a lie when it comes to Pot. It's a harmless substance. Half the population has tried it, but it's illegal. To admit you smoked Pot is to admit that you knowingly and deliberately broke the law. And do we want to elect a person who knowingly and deliberately take the law into their own hands and breaks it? What kind of example does that set? Personally, I'm comfortable with it. People who never break the law scare me. But how can the voter justify voting for an admitted law breaker? It's simple. If you want to get elected, you're expected to lie about smoking Pot.
There are some exceptions to this. If you are a Democrat and you say that you "experimented" with Pot back when you went to college and now you "regret it", the public will accept that. Even moderate Republicans can get away with saying that back when they were a Democrat they used to smoke Pot. But a Democrat can't say that they still like to get high on the weekends and that it's a better and safer high than Beer. A person who admitted that would lose to someone who did the same thing and lied about it. And certainly a religious Republican could never admit to having smoked Pot at all. Having been touched by the evil drugs, they would be tainted for life! So you'll not find John Ashcroft admitting to having smoked as much as a cigarette.
Since 1992 the American public has wanted to hear the truth about the economy. Clinton had turned the deficit around and the public was rewarded for having to face the hard facts of dealing with the economy. Had Clinton not kept his promise he wouldn't have had a chance in 1996. But by then the public knew that Clinton was serious. Bob Dole, who has won elections for 35 years by telling people the lies they wanted to hear was frustrated when they didn't work. Dole promised a 15% tax cut if people would just vote for him. How he was going to do that it one of the mysteries of the universe. In 1996 people didn't want to hear lies about the economy.
The year 2000 elections are coming up and Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) is making the same mistake that Bob Dole did. "Vote for me, I'll cut your taxes", is Ashcroft's message on the economy. The public not only doesn't believe it, but doesn't want to believe it. Now that we've balanced the budget, the public wants to get rid of the national debt. If Ashcroft hopes to win in 2000, he's going to have to pick a better subject to lie about. Perhaps he could say he's going to return Christian morals to America. I think more people would be willing to buy that one.
Politics and Sex
Sex is a very touchy subject for voters. The Bible says that sex is only OK in the context of virgin marriage monogamy and we want our leaders to be "moral" people. However, we are the descendants of 3 billion years of sexual activity. Every living creature down to plant life wants to get laid. Among male candidates, males who have the drive, strength, leadership, and confidence to rise above the herd are usually very sexually active men. Throughout history, kings and other great men have usually had many lovers. Women are biologically attracted to men of power and authority. And men of power and authority have a hard time resisting the temptations of large numbers of beautiful women wanting to have sex. So the candidate is faced with having to lie about sex to get elected.
President Clinton is an example of this. In 1992 Jennifer Flowers came forward in an attempt to ruin Clinton's chances to become president and squealed on him. Clinton admitted to "wrongdoing" and then lied about Flowers. If Clinton hadn't lied about Flowers we might have ended up with 4 more years of Bush and an 800 billion dollar a year deficit. The public wanted Clinton to fix the economy, but they didn't want a president who had an open marriage. the President, after all, had to set the "moral standard" because he was on a "pedestal". The public wanted Clinton to not be the way Clinton is. So Clinton told the voters what they wanted to hear. Since American society can't face the reality of sex, politicians are required to lie about it. If a politician were to tell the truth about sex, most television stations couldn't put it on the air.
People expect to much
What should we expect from our politicians? Should we expect moral perfection? Or should we expect them to do the job they were hired to do? Back in ancient times kings were considered Gods. People didn't have books, television, and the Internet. The kings had absolute power and control over who lives and who dies. Virgins were tossed into volcanoes. These people knew how to party!
Things have changed since then. This is a democracy. We elect people to do a job. Our "leaders" really aren't leaders as much as public servants. They work for us. They are our employees. And we need to keep reminding them of that to keep them in their place, but that's a different subject. They don't wear a crown, they were a suit and get paid to do a job, and that job is to wisely spend the taxpayer's money and to pass laws to keep the good order of society.
I think that we need to judge a politician on the basis of how good of a job he does doing what we hired him to do. If we hire a painter to paint our house, we don't care what his sex life is as long as he's getting his work done. I think it's time to chop down the pedestal and put these people to work on taxes and budgets and leave the great moral questions to our fine religious leaders like Jimmy Swaggart.
In a perfect world politicians wouldn't lie. But when the voters elect politicians who lie over those who tell the truth then the voters shouldn't be surprised when they get caught being less that truthful. But in order for politicians to tell the truth, the voters are going to have to stop punishing honesty. The voters are going to have to be ready to face the truth and the hard decisions that the politicians have to face in passing fair laws that are good for the people. Some issues are tough issues and require tough choices and require a solution that is more complicated than a slogan. So when someone running for office tells you that global population is a real issue and it's not going away on it's own, listen to him.
Would Marc Perkel Lie if Elected?
Sure I would. Count on it. If I were faced with a situation where someone asked me if I was having sex with someone who I wasn't prepared to talk publicly about, I'd lie about it. Anyone would. I'm a single man and women in this culture won't have sex with you unless they're confident that you're not going to talk about it. I'm not going to tell the public the truth where the public doesn't want to hear it. This web site is about as truthful as it gets and I'm already telling more truth than the public wants to hear.
When Politicians Lie
By Micah L. Sifry, April 26, 2000.
Whether it's to reconcile the conflicts between expectations and reality, or to justify the unjustifiable, all politicians lie; it's the nature of their work. The public knows this, indeed, many citizens take pleasure in spotting their leaders as they lie. In most cases, their body language gives them away. Richard Nixon would blink quickly. Jimmy Carter smiled.(In his own mind, Ronald Reagan never lied--hence no cues.) Clinton bites his lower lip.
The problem with political body language is it can't be read in print. You have to be watching to catch them fibbing. That's why Newt Gingrich's verbal tic is so handy. Every time he says "frankly" you know some kind of lie is coming.
Whether it's to reconcile the conflicts between expectations and reality, or to justify the unjustifiable, all politicians lie; it's the nature of their work. The public knows this, indeed, many citizens take pleasure in spotting their leaders as they lie. In most cases, their body language gives them away. Richard Nixon would blink quickly. Jimmy Carter smiled. (In his own mind, Ronald Reagan never lied-- hence no cues.) Clinton bites his lower lip.
The problem with political body language is it can't be read in print. You have to be watching to catch them fibbing. That's why Newt Gingrich's verbal tic is so handy. Every time he says "frankly" you know some kind of lie is coming. And Nexus records every one. Either he's stretching to cover up some naked weakness in his argument, or he's praying that, "to tell you the truth," this will make you believe him on faith. The antidote: just substitute "I'm lying now." And "quite frankly" means "I'm really lying." As in:
*On how well the Republican candidates for president are doing: "The odds are [I'm lying now] better than even."
*On his lack of presidential ambitions: "I think that, [I'm lying now], we now see coming out of Florida three contenders who are very solid people, very capable of being president, and I can work very comfortably with any of the three."
*On the unpopularity of his budget proposals: "In the long run people are going to say the Republican Congress produced the first balanced budget in a generation. And I think, [I'm lying now], as those facts come out, we'll do fine."
*On his handling of the government shutdown: "The American people can judge who's doing the hard work of governing and who's, [I'm really lying now], playing destructive games."
*On his book and his contributions to public discourse: "It is, [I'm lying now], disheartening to see the level of disinformation that passes for news in this country."
*On Gail Sheehy's Vanity Fair profile, which reported his infidelities: "Every person I know who likes me, who talked with Gail Sheehy, [I'm lying now], resents having done so because she so systematically manipulated and was so totally dishonest in the article."
*On Republican race-baiting: "There are a lot of folks who are very concerned we'll send a message of being insensitive to or hostile to minorities who are trying to rise. I think that would be, [I'm lying now], tragic."
*On his regret at calling the Clintons "counter-cultural McGovern-niks" and "enemies" of normal people: "It was a [I'm lying now} foolish thing to do.
On the other hand, sometimes Gingrich frankly means what he says, especially if he's making a behind-closed-doors statement not meant for public consumption. As in his warning to lobbyists a few weeks before the Republicans swept to power in Congress. "What we've said to all the PACs and, frankly, to their donors is that this is the year. For anybody who's not on board now, it's going to be the coldest years in Washington." As the cascade of cash into Republican coffers has shown, for once, he was telling the truth.
© 2007 Independent Media
To Tell The Truth, Politicians Lie
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The idea that George W. Bush and truth seldom share the same room hit the punditry all at once. Must be an election next year.
New York Observer's Joe Conason has the idea on his book's cover in huge letters, ‘‘Big Lies.” David Corn, last seen with a biography of a legendary CIA figure, has smaller type for ‘‘The Lies of George W. Bush.” The Texans, Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower, have separate entries. Al Franken, of course, shot past Ann Coulter on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list with words about lying all over his cover, even though the words that made his day were ‘‘fair and balanced,” over which Fox News lost its balance.ADVERTISEMENT
You don't have to read any of those books. Only a masochist would read them all. They show that Ms. Coulter, Bill O'Reilly et al. produce an equal and opposite reaction, and the laws of physics are safe. What's worth comment is something else. It's the notion that dishonesty matters in politics. If all these liberal authors are right about that, the conventional wisdom since Machiavelli is no longer true.
A prime political example of truthtelling is Walter Mondale's acceptance speech in 1984. He said he would raise taxes. He lost. That is taken as definitive proof that lying is better.
It may be that Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes later, would have beaten Mr. Mondale anyway. But Mr. Reagan also got away with saying, ‘‘We did not -- I repeat, not -- trade arms for hostages” when the upper level of his administration had done hardly anything else for months. Bill Clinton skated away from ‘‘I did not have sex with that woman.”
Today's politicians have poor Walter Mondale and two two-term palpable liars from whom to choose a model for their own veracity. The public doesn't seem to mind which they choose.
Mr. Bush has told some welldocumented whoppers. For examples, browse at the nearest bookstore. Mr. Bush's political problem with truth isn't that simple.
Take Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. That wasn't a lie. Hussein had had them, had used them, and the best available evidence was that he still had some. Nobody doubted it. But Mr. Bush never explained -- nor, apparently, thought about -- why that factoid required war with Iraq but not Canada. He had a pile of other factoids, of course, but what he didn't have was a major premise that would make war the conclusion of a syllogism.
It's the same sort of thing with tax cuts. Facing huge surpluses, Mr. Bush said we had earned a tax cut. When the surpluses turned into huge deficits, he said we needed the identical tax cut to deal with it. No economic theory ever has, nor ever could, prescribe identical treatment for profits and losses.
What Mr. Bush did to produce a war and a half-trillion deficit wasn't lying. It wasn't even dishonest, if it's the best he can do when he thinks about such matters. But he has people around him who should be making him take a more rigorous look at reality.
His advisers encourage him. Whole tables at the bookstores groan under books by conservative authors trying to make his reasoning make sense.
The neoconservatives who said we would roll over Hussein's army (we did), install a democratic government (still trying) and let Iraq's oil (trickling only intermittently) pay for it, now say nation-building is harder than it looks (it is) and that we are moving up the learning curve (are we?). The postwar problems they are surprised to face were foreseen by the administration of President Bush the Elder. They are the main reasons he didn't take Baghdad. They all were predicted by Kenneth Pollack in ‘‘The Threatening Storm,” a book which still supported invasion to change the regime in Iraq.
Mr. Bush the Younger can say he didn't know, and not be lying. But he should have known. ‘‘Facts,” Ronald Reagan once said, ‘‘are stubborn things.” Which means you can't just ignore them if they get in the way of what you want to do. And you can't use them in arguments when they don't fit.
It's not surprising if Mr. Bush lies. Politicians do. You can tell when (their lips are moving -- ha, ha, ha) and why. What's of more concern is that his thinking runs less along the lines of Aristotle, or even Mr. Bush the Elder, and more like the magic realism of South American novelists whose stories have birds that talk and characters who are old men and young boys at the same time. He's waged a war and produced a deficit with rhetoric and images but no reasons.
Palm Beach Post
September 22, 2003
Tom Blackburn is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post.
New York Times
Omygod! Politicians Lie?
You may recall that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed ran on a platform of open government — no more backroom deals like those of his disgraced predecessor. But I guess that doesn’t apply to the city’s backroom deal that is being worked out with Lew Wolff and his planned financing of a stadium at San Jose State University. The facility could also be used for professional sports. Wolff has submitted his plan to the city which will not release the document.
Says this morning’s editorial in the San Jose Mercury News:
City staff argued that disclosure could harm their ability to negotiate a deal and might discourage other companies from making proposals to the city. Reed decided they’re right. This from a mayor who just last year wanted to release city offers during labor negotiations.
So much for backroom deals.
And campaign promises.
By Dennis Rockstroh
April 11th, 2007
Thinking Hard About Politics Why Politicians Have To Lie
This essay explains why politicians have to lie. It also explains the inevitability of war.
Politicians and Used Car Salespersons
There are some occupations whose members we almost expect to be dishonest. For example, politicians and used car salesmen.
Used car salesmen (and saleswomen, but I think most of them are men) tend to be dishonest because car buyers only buy cars very occasionally, and a car is a big ticket item. The salesman has an advantage over the buyer, because he is selling cars all the time, and he can make a career out of learning all the tricks and schemes for ripping his customers off. The large size of each transaction means that it's worth putting significant effort into extracting maximum profit from every sale.
Similar logic applies to other salespeople who sell big ticket items to buyers who buy those items very infrequently.
What's different about politicians, as compared to used car salesmen, is that although they are often "selling" something, their communications are one-to-many, rather than one-to-one. Even when a politician talks one-to-one with a television reporter, really they are talking to the television audience.
With such a large audience, it should be so much harder to tell lies and get away with it. The words and actions of politicians are subject to intense scrutiny by many commentators and observers, all supposedly acting to serve the general public's desire to know what there is to know about their politicians.
And yet, despite all this scrutiny and commentary, and the large audience, politicians lie, and they lie persistently. The car salesperson lies because there is a good chance that the buyer fails to see through some of the lies. But the politician lies and keeps on lying, even though the audience knows that the politicians are lying. Why is this? If we know that politicians are lying, why don't we throw them out and get better ones that don't lie?
Politicians are Lying to us, but they are also Lying for us.
The reason that politicians lie so much is not because they are pathological liars (or at least not just because they are pathological liars), it is because we expect too much of them. In the first instance, we expect them to take political positions. A political position is a position intended to appeal to a particular constituency. But we also expect politicians to take moral positions.
So what's wrong with that? Isn't morality a good thing? (by definition?) Unfortunately, morality and politics are in conflict, because morality and politics must appeal to different portions of your audience. Morality is something that almost everyone agrees on, because the whole point of morality is to lay down the ground rules for a society. It's difficult to put a precise number on it, but I would say that a moral proposition is only really "moral" if at least 90% of people in a society agree with it.
One would assume that getting 90% of people to agree with you can't be a bad thing, especially if you're a politician who wants as many people to agree with you as possible.
But it doesn't work like that. A political position that appeals to 90% of the population is a failed political position. Politics is never about getting everyone on your side – it's about getting a majority of people on your side.
The competitive nature of politics encourages politicians to appeal to the smallest majority that they need to in order to gain power. In a democracy this usually means that any percentage more than 50%, for example, 51%, is enough, although a smaller percentage can be sufficient if a three-way situation develops (but three-way situations don't last in the long run, because the two losers will always be tempted to join forces if they can). In a non-democracy a politician can make their case to any constituency that has the power and influence required to maintain control over a society – which may or may not need to be more than half the population.
The first reason that a politician appeals to the smallest majority possible is that this maximises the benefits that the politician can promise to that majority. The second reason is that the politician needs to spread the disadvantages of their policies over the largest possible minority of non-supporters. In other words, if you try to appeal to too large a constituency, the size of the minority that you can screw is too small, which limits what you can steal from them, and the benefits passed onto your target constituency will be spread too thinly.
This logic in itself does not require anyone to lie. Every politician can choose a majority of supporters and a minority of non-supporters and openly promise to benefit the majority by screwing the minority.
But, as it happens, we expect our politicians to be morally upright and to express moral positions that are regarded as morally correct, which means they are expected to state moral positions that are agreed with by at least 90% of people in society, because if the number of people in agreement is less than 90% then it isn't a moral position.
Moral Majorities versus Political Majorities
And that's the cause of the conflict: 51% isn't equal to 90%. To get the votes, if you're a politician, you must take a position that clearly benefits the 51%, and to be morally upright you must take a position that is agreeable to 90%, and you must take both of these positions simultaneously.
Luckily for you, although the 51% expect you to take a moral position, they don't mind if you do so dishonestly. Indeed your supporters will assist you to resolve this conflict – by expecting and tolerating political doublespeak. They will expect you to lie about the morality of your political platform, while remaining sensitive to whether or not your platform benefits them. They will expect you to use language which is deceptive and confusing in order to express positions which have the appearance of morality yet have the reality of exploitation and transfer of wealth and power.
So why bother with morality at all, if it's just something that politicians lie about? If morality counted for nothing at all, then politics would be the majority finding a minority to screw without constraint, and that would be it. In other words, politicians would select a target group, seize their property, round them up, send them all to special camps, and leave them to either die or escape as refugees to a neighbouring country. Or maybe just kill all of them.
This is the politics of genocide and civil war. It's ugly, yet it's a logical consequence of the logic of politics.
However, we are not all living in the middle of civil wars. There must be something that constrains the sharp edge of politics. And that something is morality. In other words, morality does count for something, and it's not just a sham.
The Two Faces of Morality
We can consider morality as a philosophical abstraction, or we can consider it from a purely pragmatic point of view.
Suppose for example that you're a politician, and you adopt a political platform of civil war and genocide which offers apparent benefits to an identified majority of supporters. Why might the potential beneficiaries of your platform decline to accept its benefits?
Philosophically, we can state a moral objection in terms of an abstract principle – it is unconscionable to better yourself by exploiting others. Of course morality is somewhat elastic, and it can be hard to determine what counts as "exploitation" and what doesn't, and some people will go further than others in order to serve their own interests. But there are usually limits, and those limits usually prevent the majority from selecting a target minority and killing them all.
Pragmatically, we can point out that if the majority attempts to screw the minority, the minority may fight back. The minority may fight back quite viciously, especially if they have nothing to lose. Even if the majority eventually wins the war, they will be worse off than if the war never happened at all.
Or will they?
The Short Run and the Long Run
If Group A is 60% of the population of a country X, and they fight Group B which is the other 40%, and Group A kills all of Group B, but while they are being killed Group B kills the same number of people from Group A, then in the end there will just be 1/3 of the original Group A left (i.e. 20% of the original total population of country X). Can you be said to win a civil war if more than half your side is dead?
In the short run it seems like a disaster for both sides, but in the long run, Group A has won, because they can use all the resources of country X, and they can recover lost population by breeding, all without having to compete with any members of Group B (who, remember, are all dead).
So if we judge success in the long run, even a brutal war that kills almost everyone on both sides can still have a winner.
However this conclusion, that every civil war has a winner, depends on one assumption: that external forces can be ignored. But of course there is more than one country in the world, and our hypothetical country X will have neighbours. If most of the inhabitants of country X kill each other, and the infrastructure of country X is destroyed, then country Y which is next door to country X may decide to take advantage of country X's weakness and invade it and take all country X's resources for itself. And if the inhabitants of country Y have not themselves been recently fighting a civil war, then they will be internally stronger and they will be better positioned to fight and win an external war (against country X for example).
First Pick Your Minority
There are other difficulties (besides moral considerations) for the politician who wants to gain power by exploiting a vulnerable minority. One is that the minority has to be relatively inelastic in its membership. If the minority is defined in a way that makes it easy to leave or join the group, then a policy based on victimising that minority won't be very successful – because its members will all leave the group.
Another problem is that the minority has to be not too entangled with the majority that is benefiting from the screwing of the minority. For example, a policy of benefiting men at the expense of women is less likely to win political acclaim, because the biggest source of happiness in most people's lives comes from man-to-woman relationships. If you take from the women to give to the men (or vice versa), you're not going to achieve any net benefit for either party, and even if women don't get to vote, their male relatives and partners will disapprove of policies that disrupt relationships between the two sexes (and we must remember that in any give/take relationship, there is usually a net loss such that the amount given is less than the amount taken away).
In practice, the following types of minority can be effectively targeted as victims of a political policy:
Members of a given race
Members of a particular religion
The poorest and weakest members of society
The richest and most powerful members of society
Over time, Western democracies have moved towards using abstract criteria of wealth and power to choose political consitituencies, i.e. the last two items rather than the first two, and this corresponds to the "left"/"right" polarisation that we have all come to know and love as the basis of politics in modern Western democracies.
Policies based on explicit racial, religious or other ethnic fashion have somewhat gone "out of fashion", although in many countries there are major correlations between ethnic group and economic status, sometimes for historical reasons (i.e. one race screwed the other race in the past), which means that the racial aspect of politics never completely disappears, even in those countries where everyone likes to think of themselves as explicitly "anti-racist".
When it comes to the conflict between politics and morality, the left/right polarisation has a corresponding moral polarisation, based mostly on uncertainty about whether those worse off "deserve" their fate. If we could study every person's individual circumstances, we might decide that some do deserve their fate and other's don't. But political policies are necessarily based on averages, and everyone has a different opinion on how much the poorer and the richer in general deserve their current economic status. And most people have opinions that are conveniently consistent with their own personal economic interests (and which therefore determine their voting decisions).
Democracies and Non-Democracies
As I mentioned above, in a democracy a 51% majority is enough to get power. In a non-democracy it is less clear what the required minimum is. In practice there is usually some minimum number of supporters required to maintain power by force. The very clever dictator can arrange things so that everyone else is scared to challenge him, and everyone one is scared not to dob in those who look likely to threaten their leader, but such arrangements can be fragile, and a dictator's position is more robust if there is some substantial group within society who are clear beneficiaries of the dictator's dictatorship.
Which means that even dictators have to play politics, because they have to advertise the benefits of their political policies to their target constituency.
It also means that dictators have to adopt a facade of morality, just like "real" politicians do, and for much the same reasons. If a dictator openly admits the immorality of his rule, then that increases the chances that the people will rise up and depose him.
Hope For World Peace
Many ideas have been put forward for creating everlasting world peace, including:
Making all countries democratic
All joining the same religion
Getting rid of religion altogether
Forming a world government
The problem with all these schemes is that they ignore the fundamental logic of war and politics, which is that if a majority can screw a minority, then in the longer term, the majority is better off. Even if poverty is solved and all countries are democratic and we all belong to the same religion or to no religion and we all have the same colour skin, people will still be looking for ways to better themselves at the expense of others, and politicians will be looking for ways to identify a majority group which can better itself at the expense of a remaining minority.
As for world government, there's no particular reason to believe that it will be any more effective at preventing war than any other kind of government. The only difference under a world government is that there will no longer be any distinction between "civil" war and "world" war.
And if we think that not having a world government will prevent a world war, then we are also mistaken, because countries inevitably tend to group themselves into friendly alliances, and today's friendly alliance is tomorrow's defensive military alliance, and so on and so on. (And there will always be some "evil" threatening alliance that "needs" to be confronted and dealt with.)
Is There Any Hope At All?
The basic constraint of biology is that winners win the evolutionary race and losers lose and we are living on a finite piece of real estate with finite resources. Maybe one day we will expand into space in different directions, and there will be less requirement to continually exterminate each other just in order to have descendants. But space exploration is expected to remain rather expensive in the short to medium term future, and there seems to be little chance that it will ever change the basic parameters of life for 99.99% of the world's population.
One future change likely to happen soon is the technological singularity (which will probably arrive before major emigration to other worlds becomes feasible). Human competition and co-operation are becoming more and more entwined with self-accelerating technological development. This doesn't necessarily solve the war problem, and indeed when the singularity arises it might just decide to engage in a war of extermination against everyone and everything else. But if we are lucky, somehow most of "us" will be a part of the singularity, for example if it's a combined human-machine amplified-intelligence singularity, in which case things won't be so bad.
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Copyright © 2006, Philip Dorrell
9 December, 2006
Why Politicians Lie
How cheering to hear of a nation up in arms because its prime minister lied. Though perhaps the anger that brought thousands out onto the streets of Budapest on Monday night owed less to a perception that they had been duped than to Ferenc Gyurscany himself admitting that he had lied, a confession he had not intended to reach an audience beyond his own party faithful. In Hungary it was an all-too unwelcome reminder of the bad old days of communism, the era when authority could never be trusted. In Britain, the idea that truth is both demanded and guaranteed by democracy has been accepted as a sad fallacy for much much longer.
It is elusive, this business of truth-telling in politics. For a start, politicians are salesmen, peddling a plan for a better tomorrow. Churchill is the only modern political leader to make a virtue of an immediate future that would be blood, toil, tears and sweat, and he wasn't up for election. Politicians, no more than salesmen can be expected to volunteer the weak points of their arguments. So maybe it is not surprising that it has become a sine qua non of the opinion polls that no one trusts politicians. And sometimes, political deceit can be justified by events: Baldwin did not tell the electorate how real he believed the threat from Hitler to be because he felt it would hand power to a (then largely pacifist) Labour party. Heath did not tell the truth about Europe because he believed membership was essential to the country's future. Wilson, struggling to hold a Labour party together and a Labour government in power, told versions of the truth that depended on his audience.
But the most vicious example of cynicism in politics was the Tory MP, Alan Clark, the man notoriously economic with 'l'actualite' in the arms to Iraq scandal. This cynicism made him funny, popular and so untrustworthy that even the object of his devotion Margaret Thatcher refused to promote him beyond the most middling rank of ministers.
Most politicians are more circumspect. Unlike Clark, who thought it was an amusing part of the political game, they see dishonesty as an unavoidable but disagreeable aspect of the real world. They do not want to be caught, and if they are, they want to be able to say they did nothing more than create what Sir Robert Armstrong, then head of the civil service (formerly regarded as the very pinnacle of the sacred mount of truthfulness) called "a misleading impression".
For political truth is a very subjective idea. At what point does telling only a bit of the truth end up being close to a lie? And on the most difficult, subjective political questions (say, to Gordon Brown about his friendship with Tony Blair) where is there safe ground? Is a retreat from frankness in the interests of sustaining an armistice an excuse for confirming voters in their cynicism with a statement no one can credit. (We have always been friends. We always will be friends.)
We still hanker for truth-telling from our political leaders. Tony Blair's descent from popularity owes much to the perception that he deliberately misled the country from Bernie Ecclestone to weapons of mass destruction (sidestepping tuition fees and air traffic control). How much gloomier the world looks after nine years of an administration whose ministers sometimes seem so steeped in hubris as to have lost contact with reality. In this month's Prospect, John Lloyd returns to his theme that rather than an increase in the cynical deceit of politicians, blame belongs to the voracious appetite of a news media that is the politicians' sole delivery system.
And it is true that newspaper readers, who are after all also voters, are accomplices in this degradation of political authority. For if we shrug our shoulders when a politician says something that stretches credibility, then there's no pressure on the politician to be honest. We need to demand that politicians stop floundering in a moral quagmire and accept that truthfulness is both an obligation of democracy, and an essential of its survival.
September 20, 2006
Why Politicians Lie
7 April 1999
By Danny Fairfax
Everybody knows that politicians are liars. A recent survey showed only 7% of the population think that politicians are trustworthy. The election campaign for the March 27 NSW election only served to confirm people's suspicions. Lies were spread by the major political parties on the issues of law and order, electricity privatisation, heroin use and the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.
Are politicians just naturally lying characters? In fact, politicians are amazingly candid when speaking at business functions, passing memos to each other and dealing with their pals from large corporations.
Here is just a selection of things that politicians have said in these situations:
“We do not want compulsory student monies flowing out to anti-Kennett and anti-Coalition campaigns and other fringe activities of the hard student left.” -- Victorian Liberal Party briefing document.
“History has always shown the Liberal Party to be on the side of capital and free enterprise.” -- Federal industrial relations minister Peter Reith.
“One of the first people internationally to define the Labor Party was Lenin when he described the Labor Party as altogether bourgeois and altogether liberal.” -- Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley.
“The ALP's opposition to the plan to build a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights is based on the realities of politics in an election year, and in particular the need to win [the federal seat of] Hughes, rather than objective safety-focused concerns.” -- Federal deputy Labor leader Gareth Evans.
“If greater police powers mean a reduction in civil liberties, then so be it.” -- NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr.
These comments were not intended to reach the ears of ordinary working people, but somehow slipped out. All these quotes are distinctly different from the sound bites fed to us at press conferences and in television interviews. Politicians make grand promises that they claim will improve the situation for absolutely everyone -- only to unleash policies of austerity and cutbacks later.
Politicians' lies conceal the truth about their function: to serve big business. Big capitalists make sure of this by pumping funds into the major parties and favouring the party that does what they want the most. Politicians' huge salaries and superannuation packages make them part of the ruling elite.
All this guarantees that politicians of the major parties, and the overwhelming majority of the minor ones, are always in the pockets of big business.
But it is not enough just to recognise that politicians are liars -- 93% of us already know that. We must take action. Voting every three of fours years is not democracy. To change society we cannot rely on the lying politicians, but on our own power in mass campaigns for social justice.
Why Do Politicians Lie? Because They Have To
Melanie Phillips says that both Tories and New Labour make impossible promises, and flee from the issues that really trouble voters
Tony is fighting Gordon while fending off Robin and Clare and trying to shaft Geoff while Jack beats him up about David. Iain is being knifed by Michael and Vanessa, egged on by MPs who are furious that he hasn't laid a glove on Tony and has made them vulnerable to Charlie, so that instead of Iain they would rather have Michael or Oliver or David or Tim or possibly the Central Office doorman, any of whom would achieve the instant rapport with the British voters that Iain so painfully lacks.
They all might as well not bother. The British voter couldn't give a monkey's. It is obvious who is going to win the next general election. The victor will almost certainly be the Abstention party. As things stand, people are going to not vote in droves.
The public is profoundly, dangerously turned off politics. They think that all politicians are serial liars. They think that all politicians are incompetent. They think that the gladiatorial combat in Parliament is monumentally irrelevant because it takes place between factions of lying incompetents. So much is a given. And as far as it goes, much of this perception is true.
But it doesn't go very far. Why do politicians lie? Why are they so disconnected from what ordinary people want from them? The reasons surely go much deeper. The explanation that the public give for their intention not to vote is 'They're all the same.' They repeat this dirge like a cracked record because it is true. Politicians from opposing parties are far closer to each other than they would care to admit.
This convergence became significant after the collapse of socialist ideology. Tony Blair promptly 'triangulated' by welding Thatcherite economics onto Labour egalitarianism. The Tories cried foul and wrung their hands. Then they cried fraud. Now they just cry.
Both sides pretend that there is a chasm between them. Labour say the Tories will privatise everything in sight and restrict choice to the rich while abandoning the poor to rubbish services. The problem is that this is what Labour is doing. The Tories say that they will decentralise everything in sight, put central government in a box and hand power over public services to the people. The trouble is that Labour is talking the same language.
Whether or not it will put it into practice is irrelevant. To the public, these are devils dancing on the head of a pin. As a result, the more ferocious the parliamentary combat, the more ridiculous it seems and the more irritated and disconnected the public gets.
All parties offer impossible goals. Both Labour and the Tories promise lower taxes and higher public spending, while the Liberal Democrats promise heaven on earth: no tuition fees and well-funded universities. None tells the public that hard choices must be made. None dares admit that the EU is increasingly turning them all into political eunuchs.
Instead, having promised what they can't possibly deliver, they find in office that they have to conceal the fraud. That's why they lie, through the whole farrago of spin, evasion and manipulated statistics. So the public turn their backs in disgust - and are promptly said to be 'no longer interested in politics'. Not true. Politics is no longer interested in them.
People will vote only if they think that it will make a difference. Politicians, however, hate difference because they think it loses them votes. They assume they have to treat the public as identikit consumers.
So they pander to rampant materialism and individualism. You want to have a baby as a 55-year-old single woman? No problem, we'll give you IVF with no questions asked. You want the shops open whenever you feel like spending money? No problem, we'll abolish the Sabbath and give you Sunday opening. You want to get rid of Grandma because you find her mental and physical frailty distressing? No problem, we'll give you the means to have her killed by starvation and dehydration through the Mental Incapacity Bill.
Politicians assume that people want only bread and circuses, or money and freedom. But their deepest concerns are over the quality of their lives.
The paradox is that the public are most passionate over those issues which most deeply divide us - moral, social and cultural - and from which politicians run a mile. People care deeply about threats to the wellbeing of their children; about their own ever more fragile emotional security; about the increasing difficulty of feeling that they belong anywhere; about the calamitous drop in public civility; about the debasing images that confront them from every television channel and advertising hoarding.
But all these issues and more are considered forbidden territory for politicians. For the umpteenth time, the Home Secretary made the right growling noises this week about antisocial behaviour. But the government refuses to tackle the issues behind it: family breakdown, the drug culture, truancy. Instead, its appeasement of the forces promoting such aberrations - its tacit encouragement of fractured family life, its ambiguous signals on 'soft' drugs, its dumbing-down of education into meaninglessness and vacuity - merely fuels the antisocial fires.
Not that the Tories have been any better. True, Iain Duncan Smith deserves credit for speeches in which he has outlined an approach that explicitly challenges rampant individualism and tries to reassert the communal values that sustain a healthy society. But both he and the tiny band of believers promoting such ideas are widely scorned by the party's morally challenged snobs for an agenda held to reflect narrow, under-educated minds out of touch with a changing society. If IDS is destroyed, this fledgling - and still far too timid - 'common good' agenda will die with him.
If so, far from connecting with a changing society the party will become even more irrelevant to the concerns of those who might ever bother to vote. These people are very angry - that the fabric of their orderly world is being ripped apart, and that no politician has the bottle even to acknowledge it, let alone do anything about it.
So what would engage them? Well, how about their local environment, for a start - a challenge to the supermarkets that run small shops out of business and tear the heart out of communities. And if we're talking planning, what about an attack on the municipal bigwigs who market their towns on the back of all-night clubs that act as drug factories for the local youth?
What about championing the rights of parents against the concerted attempt to subvert their children's morality under the guise of sex education? Or promising to put duty and adult responsibility back at the heart of society by repealing the Human Rights Act and the Children Act? Or linking welfare to behaviour? Or reintroducing fault into divorce? Or putting a brake on genetic manipulation?
Yes, such proposals would create massive rows. Yes, they would be divisive. But they would also create passionate constituencies and a point to voting. By playing to the lowest common denominator of a consumer society, politicians have turned increasing numbers off voting altogether. Only by showing conspicuous courage in daring to be different can politicians break this cynical and despairing mould.
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist.
Copyright Spectator Oct 18, 2003
Understanding The Political System
Son: "Dad, I have to do a special report for school.Can I ask you a question?"
Father:"Sure son. What's the question?"
Son: "What is Politics?"
Father:"Well.let's take our home for example. I am the wage earner, so let's call me Capitalism. Your mother is the administrator of the money,so let's call her Goverment.We take care of your needs,so let's call you The People.We'll call the maid The Working class and your baby brother we can call The Future. Do you understand son?
Son: "I'm not really sure,dad. I'll have to think about it."
That night awakened by his brother crying,the boy went to see what was wrong. Discovering that the baby had seriously soiled his diaper,the boy went to his parents room and found his mother sound asleep. He went to the maids's room,where,peeking through the keyhole,he saw his father in bed with the maid.The boy's knocking went totally unheeded by his father and the maid, so the boy returned to his room and went back to sleep.
The next morning he reported to his father.
Son: "Dad,now I think I understand what politics is."
Father:"Good son! Can you explain it to me in your own words?"
Son: "Well dad,while Capitalism is screwing The Working Class, Government is sound asleep,The People are being completelty ignored and The Future is full of shit.
Politics in Corporate - Social Justice and Environmentalism
You have two cows. You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows and then act surprised when it drops dead.
You have two cows. You are disparaged for your overconsumption, so one cow is taken from you and given to the foreigner who has since emigrated here.
You are strongly advised to lower consumption so that millions more of the world's oppressed can come to America for a better life. And forget cows. You will eat tofu and be damn grateful for it, if you know what's good for you.