The Economics of Lying

One of the lead articles in last week’s Economist argued that “lying is at the heart of civilisation” and “lying is one of the things that makes the world go round”.  Think about it for one minute.  If lying was socially acceptable and prevalent, would contracting and economic exchange be even possible?  Would the very fabric of society not crumble?  We could trust no one – the government, doctors, business, our parents, our professors, our friends, and even our nearest and dearest.  Sadly, the prevailing postmodern and relativistic culture in which we live believes that there is no such thing as truth.  You can watch Os Guinness argue for why we need “truth” by clicking here.

In the City of London, there was once a phrase “my word is my bond”.  People in the City could be trusted – social opprobrium (and even jail) would be the result of someone caught lying and cheating.  Maybe the tolerance of lying and dishonesty has been at the root of recent financial chicanery in the City.  It certainly has been at the root of voter cynicism in Western democracies.  Expediency and “being economical with the truth” is the order of the day for the modern politician.  

As an academic, I am interested in truth and academia is all about the pursuit of truth.  Consequently, I disagree with the Economist – lying is not at the heart of our civilisation, rather its pernicious influence is contributing to the decline of our civilisation!

Popular Posts