(Revised October 7, 1999)

How can you tell when a Politician is Lying?

How can you tell when a Politician is Lying?

By: Leon Felkins
Written: October 4, 1999

Let us dispense with the traditional short answer first: "check to see if the lips are moving". While that is basically true, it is far too short to have any change of getting published, so I would like to elaborate on it a bit. In particular, I would like to explore the many ways they lie and deceive and look at what the actual truth might be, where they do.

Most of you will not need any convincing that they do lie and will wonder why it is worthy of further discussion. While that may be true for some of you, there must be others that are taken in by their deceptions for how else can we account for the almost total obsession of many citizens and nearly all of the press with every utterance of a politician or government official? Why is there still an obsession by much of the public with our two major parties when almost every one of their pronouncements are boloney?

Apparently many citizens still believe that persons in the government and/or politics sometime lie but can still be believed most of the time. That belief has absolutely no foundation which is what I hope to show in this article. Others will say, "So what — we know they don't always tell the truth, but it doesn't seriously impact our lives." I hope to show here that their duplicity does have serious consequences for all of us now and will even more so in the future.

In this essay I will provide a summary of some of the major ways politicians and government bureaucrats deceive us. Since the scope of the types of deceit is very broad, I can only hit the high spots. But in every case, I will provide references to further material, online if I know about it.

There are many ways in which the government interacts with our personal lives. I will attempt to list some of the more important interactions and to show that there is a consistent pattern of duplicity in every one of them.

Let us start with the most serious issue of all, the concept that the politicians are our representatives.

Closing Remarks

What I have tried to show in this essay is that in dealing with the politicians and the government, your are advised to be skeptical of anything they claim or say. While not covering nearly all the aspects of duplicity dished out by them, I have covered a wide range that is representative of the problem.

What can be done about it? Well, the first thing is to be wary, as I just suggested. As far as somehow bringing the politicians and government employees to salvation and convincing them that they really out to be honest with us — don't hold your breath. They have time and money — far more than the rest of us — and they will use those resources to fight every effort to make them be honest. It would be of tremendous help if the public could somehow pull itself out of its apathy.

But I must make a clarification in case I have mislead you into thinking that these people are somehow more disingenuous and devious than the rest. Maybe some are, but for the most part, I doubt it. It is the system that makes them so. I would encourage you to learn more about why this is by studying the theory of "Public Choice" (I have an introductory page on this subject at my site, http://perspicuity.net/sd/pub-choice.html). Basically, Public Choice can explain the motivation of politicians and "public servants" in just two words: self interest. In view of that, I suspect that many of us would act the same way if we were in their shoes.

But the best advice for dealing with this problem is summed up in the simple quote (author unknown):

"Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason."

Leon Felkins is a retired Engineer, Army officer and former teacher of Computer Systems. He now maintains a web page on Political Philosophy, "A Rational Life", and a "Political Almanac". He welcomes email at leonf@perspicuity.net.