About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Awesome, Destructive Power Of Lies And Ideology

The social bond of a cooperative society is trust. Yes, cooperators hedge their bets by agreeing upon strictly enforced laws that prohibit theft and murder and all their corollaries. However, honesty which is the companion virtue of trust cannot be legislated. Some individuals, though eager to take advantage of the benefits of a cooperative society, do not hesitate to break the social bond that holds that society together.

No where in our cooperative society is this more apparent than in the free market where goods and services are mutually and voluntarily exchanged.

Have you ever stood face to face with a potential trading partner and had that potential partner lie to you without batting an eye? I have. Most individuals have, but most especially individuals who own their own business.

I've owned a business for almost 20 years. I can usually sniff out the liars, the big talkers who promised what you wanted to hear, who eventually always take themselves too seriously and end up betraying their intentions. Remarkably, liars are few and far between in the business world. Non-business people would be amazed at the amount of business that is done in this country on a handshake. Big business may run by means of lawyers and contracts, but small business operates on trust. My relations with suppliers and customers is virtually all based on trust. Many times I have staked a year's profits, or the future of my entire business, on a handshake and the honesty of the other guy.

However, you do occasionally run into the exception, the pathological liar who is able to fly under your truth radar because of his ability to believe in his own lies. Such men lie with a straight face and get you to believe them. This is the type of person that illustrates the awesome, destructive power of dishonesty and the ideology that often is its underlying basis. Of course, such natural-born liars are not self-sufficient. They depend on the naivete or greed or trusting nature of their "mark" to close the deal. They're really good at what they do, so much so that an honest person is dumbfounded to discover that such people even exist.

Politics is not like small business. Politics trades in lies and liars, except in politics lies are not called lies. Political lies are called spin, or semantics, or shading, or being disingenuous or being inaccurate or not fully forthcoming. I'm sick of it.

Take Occupy Wall Street, for instance. The President has compared Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party.

Surely the President sees what we all can see: that Occupy Wall Street is far different from the Tea Party. Yet he tells the lie. Yet, he repeats the lie, as does Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. In fact, Ms. Wasserman-Schultz has made lying her business and has perfected it to a high art. And the media, let's not forget the so-called mainstream media like the New York Times. They trade in lies. What is amazing is that in this day and age political lies are exposed daily on the internet at sites such as The Drudge Report and Weasel Zippers. Yet, those exposed liars continue to lie with impunity. It boggles the mind. I'm not going to bother citing more examples. They are there for all to see by honestly making a daily review of the sites mentioned.

I'm convinced political liars are enabled by something called ideology, i.e., a pre-conceived mindset of beliefs about how the world works that is written indeliably on a person's consciousness. Ideology is like a religious belief. There is little if any basis for it in reality. It is based entirely on faith, which is predicated on the ability to keep and profess a belief in the very face of hard and real evidence to the contrary.

For instance, it is a waste of breath to argue with a Christian about the existence of God. Belief in God is completely a matter of faith. That something supernatural could be proved by natural means is a contradiction. So it is with, say, Marxism. Don't waste your breath on a Marxist. Maxism is a faith-based ideology. It's tenets fly in the face of reality, but Marxists get around such pesky facts by inventing alternate facts and changing definitions. I won't bother to explain. All anyone who is truly interested has to do is study Marxism in the light of all we have learned about economics. The central tenet of Marxist belief ("From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.) flies in the face of all we know about human action and cooperative society. The tenet presupposes an all-knowing redistributive authority.

In the coming political season surrounding the elections of 2012 it is essential that clear-thinking, honest Americans not be surprised or side-swiped by the existence and words of pathological liars in the press or on the stump. It is essential we question candidates and their supporters -- whether overt in their campaigns or covert in the press -- about their ideological beliefs. And it is important that we are able to distinguish ideology from reality.

In a recent conversation about politics with a long-time best friend I was told that I needed to make an effort to see all sides of every argument and to understand that each side has a valid point of view. I immediately rejected such relativism as an attempt to portray any honest thought or observation as an ideology. There is no validity to the Marxist argument which is premised upon fantasy and arbitrary definitions. Free market principles of economics and the social principles of cooperation, property, freedom and peace, which are firmly grounded in the science of human action, do not constitute an arbitrary ideology based on faith anymore than mathematics does.

Class warfare is an expressly Marxist concept. When the President expounds on class warfare and the measures needed to correct America's mal-distribution of wealth, he is spouting Marxist ideology. The lies and contradictions we catch him repeating on camera do not change his mind or even phase him because his idea of truth is predicated on the Marxist ideology he has accepted as a matter of faith.

The President doesn't understand the destructive nature of the fire he's playing with. By pitting the factory owner against the factory worker, and the 99% against the 1%, he is planting seeds of distrust in a cooperative society that is held together entirely by trust. When he and his Congressional cronies use the law to implement the measures he says are needed to correct free market capitalism, he is introducing institutional distrust into the free market place.

The social bond of trust that glues our cooperative society together, as resilient as it is and has been, cannot long survive such destructive ideological power.


Anonymous said...

Good article, very provocative.

But I do have to ask: is your ideology true? What makes yours true? Is it because there are tons of facts out there that support your ideology? Is it because your ideology just seems to "make sense"?

For most ideologies there's an intellectual basis, whether or not you agree that it's correct. Ideologies aren't things that people just randomly make up (there might be some out there, but things like Marxism and Capitalism didn't just manifest from the ether).

Most ideologies are the culmination of thousands of years of human thought and ideas. Just because you think someone's ideology makes absolutely no sense doesn't necessarily make it untrue, or make that person a liar.

I do think you're right, though, that ideology is generally a bad thing. Theory is better, because the theoretical mind is more concerned about discovering what is true rather than sticking to a specific template.

Sherman Broder said...

Thanks for your comment, Jack.

First, I agree with you on theory being superior to ideology. I draw a fine distinction between theory and ideology.

I think of ideology as a social or philosophical theory written in stone, like the "template" you mention. It's tenets are rigid and are not open to critical analysis.

Ideology is generally reasoned backwards, i.e., it starts with the tenets that comprise a vision of some ideal and then suggests reasons why the tenets must be so. If an ideology happens to be reasoned forward from a starting premise, that premise does not comport with reality.

A deductive, analytical theory (as opposed to the inductive theories of the experimental sciences) starts with a premise which is true and reasons forward using logical argument. The deduced conclusions are as true as the premise, providing the logical analysis is error free.

Free market capitalism is an economic theory, not an ideology. It's tenets are deduced from the premise that man acts with purpose. He uses means available to attain the ends he has in mind. From this premise all the tenets of economics are deduced.

I don't understand what you mean when you say an ideology that makes no sense might still be true. I would say a theory must be both logically reasoned and deduced from a true premise.

Lastly, it doesn't necessarily follow that a person defending an ideology is a liar. A Marxist may be sincere in his beliefs and arguments and, hence, not a liar, though he is still mistaken. Ideology-driven individuals are many times tempted to let their ends justify their means. So they sometimes lie to "prove" a point they believe in.