Art Carden  

The Ends Justify the Means: Lies are OK When We Know Best

Michael Cohen: Lying is Alrig... Why Nations Fail: A Con...

I want to add a hearty "amen" to David's post on Michael Cohen's recent article on President Obama's truth-challenged claims about health care. My views on the economic literacy of the American electorate are Caplanian, but Cohen stakes out a position that is breathtakingly arrogant: in effect, Obamacare is so amazingly important as a policy goal that nothing--not even the truth--should stand in the way of its passage and implementation.

Are we so benighted that our exalted leaders have to stoop to lying in order to get us to want what's best for us? Are we willing to accept Cohen's scolding like so many codependents hanging our heads and making excuses for abusive and dishonest spouses? If so, I tremble for the future of the Republic.

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COMMENTS (19 to date)
MingoV writes:

President Obama and the democrats in Congress either lied or remained silent about the problems ObamaCare would cause. Why did they not tell the truth? One reason, already mentioned, is that they wanted the law to pass. The second reason is that they expected no punishment for lying. Almost all the democrats in Congress who ran for reelection in 2012 won. President Obama, who spoke the lies most often, garnered 126 more electoral college votes than Romney. The public decided that the lies were unimportant. Politicians rarely receive punishments for telling lies.

NZ writes:

A bit of a tangent here, but bear with me:

It makes me wonder: are there indeed some goals that are so important that they're worth lying about (or at least, worth stating things about as facts when we can't prove they're true)?

In other words, is there such thing as a Noble Lie?

I used to think not, but now I think there is.

In fact, I'd say a lot of the detrimental changes that have swept our society in the last 50 years (secularism, feminism, globalism, etc.) are the result of overthrowing noble lies to some extent.

ThomasH writes:

"Obamacare is so amazingly important as a policy goal that nothing--not even the truth--should stand in the way of its passage and implementation."

I do not think that is a proper interpretation, but I do not think any true liberal could agree with the statement as you paaphrase it.

I still reject the implication that the intent of the satements was to lead anyone to conclude that in no case would anyone have to accept an insurance plan inferior to the one he had before. There might have been a better way to convey the message that very few people that "liked" their insurance plan more than the alternative they wouldhave under ACA would not be able to keep it, but I have not heard it.

T. Bogle writes:

Loosely related, but still related.

I once had a very brief conversation with Judge Napolitano about the actual effectiveness of electing libertarian politicians within the framework of the checks and balances (or what is left of them) in the American political system. We both agreed that in order for any libertarian to change policies of any import, they would have to do so in a manner which would make then seem near tyrannical. I call this the "Czar Alexander II Dilemma" though some better versed in Russian history may argue.

Would I rather have a libertarian politician ram deregulation and a restoration of civil liberties through Congress, or a slow, but continual descent towards serfdom, so long as it followed the established order of the day? Tough choice. Fortunately, not one any of us has to make. There are plenty of ways to advocate for freedom using an open and honest approach.

Kyle Walter writes:

I don't know if this was intentional on your part, but your last sentence reminds me of a quote about slavery from Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."
That quote also appears on the Jefferson Memorial and this country would do well to keep it in mind.

Methinks writes:

There's just no end to the justifications for fraud! It's just that none of us want to be the victims of the fraud. We'd rather be the perpetrators. For shame.

Listen, guys, it's not that nuanced. There's only one (ONE!) Noble Lie in this world: "No, honey, those pants do not make your behind look big."

(T. Bogle, Czar Alexander didn't face a dilemma. Russia was an autocracy and the Czar was an autocrat. This means that all of Russia, its land, its air and its people belonged to the Czar to do with has he pleases. It pleased Alexander II to introduce liberal reforms.)

Glen Smith writes:

Being a good liar has been the secret to success since life first began on earth (humans aren't the only animals on earth who lie). The second most important survival technique is to be able to identify a lie.

Arthur_500 writes:

Censorship of the facts have been a hallmark of ObamaCare since it was introduced.

At the time this was being introduced and debated there was a Professor who titled himself a Healthcare Economist. This individual was all over the Internet, the television, radio stations and even in magazines. (You never hear of him today)

I often disagreed with him on his Blog and would point out many of the things that are happening today that were clearly predicted. Many of the arguments simply didn't pass muster of Econ 101.

He would respond to me via e-mail and blocked me from access to his Blog. In his final e-mail he clearly stated that ObamaCare is simply a stopgap until the implementation of a Nationalized, Single-payer Healthcare System.

Of course this was also predicted and it was considered "crazy-talk" from right-wing wacko's or even worse those terrible Tea Party members. Today I hear such questions coming from those who once made those very accusations. Suddenly, it seems more mainstream rather than crazy talk.

The group that originally sponsored Mr. Obama claims their purpose is to find sleeper candidates who are electable and will forward their socialist agenda. As open and honest as they have every been (they have a website you can visit any time) our mainstream media, yhe general public and politicians have ignored all this.

Would anyone like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? I can make you a deal. With all the foot traffic alone you will become a millionaire overnight. Contact me and we'll make arrangements for you to wire the cash to my offshore account and I'll have the title brought to your doorstep via UPS. Trust me...

Motoko writes:

Just for a second, let's pretend like Obamacare is actually a libertarian policy that makes everyone strictly better off.

Are you still as mad about the lie? :)

The Sheep Nazi writes:

If it made everybody strictly better off, why would you need to lie in order to sell it?

Chris Koresko writes:

@Motoko: If I understand the situation correctly, the purpose of the various lies was to sell Obamacare by convincing Congress and the general public that it:

* Would allow tens of millions of people to get health insurance who previously lacked it

* Would not interfere with the existing health-care arrangements of the vast majority of Americans who were happy with what they had

* Was in no way a federal takeover of the health-care system, but instead promoted free competition between private insurance companies

* Would not add to the federal deficit

* Would reduce the cost of health insurance for most people

* Would improve the overall quality of American health care

* Would not subsidize illegal aliens

* Would not fund abortions

The point of telling those lies was presumably to sell Obamacare to the public and to Congress. In particular, if memory serves, the abortion promise was made to the Blue Dog Democrats, and it got them on board at the last minute, providing the last critical votes which allowed Obamacare to pass the House.

If Obamacare were actually a libertarian policy that makes everyone strictly better off, most or all of the above claims would be true.

NZ writes:

@The Sheep Nazi:

If it made everybody strictly better off, why would you need to lie in order to sell it?
Mainly because voters aren't rational.
Randy writes:

I heard Judge Napolitano on Fox News explaining that it is not illegal for political office holders to lie to the public, as the law recognizes that such lies may be necessary in the public interest. It does make sense, in the same way that classifying certain actions of the government makes sense, but it says a great deal about the nature of politics, and the extent to which we should trust politicians.

Motoko writes:

@Sheep Nazi,

Because people have systematic and self serving biases in politics?

I mean this is really ridiculous. Caplan has an entire book about this, but all of the sudden when the Obama implies that unguided electorate is irrational, we're up in arms about it.

@Chris Kenso

Yeah. The policy is bad in the first place, whether or not he had to lie to pass it. This is just typical entertainment-politics where we attack at any given opportunity. Obama lied? Slam him for it. Lying is bad right? Slam slam slam isn't our side so much better.

Doesn't it suck to spend time focusing on the bottom 5% of the opposition?

Hazel Meade writes:

I question whether ObamaCare is what is "best for us" in the first place.

Is the employer based system "best for us"? Is effectively abolishing health insurance and turning the individual market into a mandatory pre-paid group health plan really what is "best for us"?

I'm appalled at the hubris of people thinking that cost-sharing between the healthy and the sick is such a universally accepted good that the healthy could not possibly object. They have to be lied to to trick them to "share the wealth". They just don't realize that sharing their wealth is what is really best for them.

Jeff writes:
I mean this is really ridiculous. Caplan has an entire book about this, but all of the sudden when the Obama implies that unguided electorate is irrational, we're up in arms about it.

Okay, but lying to people is still unethical unless you're really convinced it's for their own good, right? Just because someone is dumb/crazy/ignorant shouldn't make it open season on them for con-artists. And what we see here is an Obama Administration looking for a signature legislative achievement, buying votes in Congress by larding up an already bloated bill that was written by a combination of detached, unaccountable technocrats and industry insiders. This is in the public interest? Really?

The line here between President Obama lying to the public for its own good and lying to the public for his and his friends' own good is a thin one. At best.

Floccina writes:

Usually the lie is such that fewer people recognize it as a lie like:

The employer pays matching FICA
The employer pays for your health insurance
The other people will pay for your child's schooling.
Warren Buffet will pay this tax.

Jay writes:


Here is an excerpt from one of the 31 times the President mentions "the promise":

“So let me begin by saying this to you and to the American people: I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage — they like their plan and, most importantly, they value their relationship with their doctor. They trust you. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. … If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. … No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: Fix what’s broken and build on what works. And that’s what we intend to do” -June 15, 2009

Do you honestly still reject the interpretation?

Jason writes:


What I find amazing is the only bit of truth is the last sentence.

"Fix what's broken and build on what works"

The real meaning:
1. "what's broken" = the entire system, thus we must break the current system and bend it into what we want.

2. "what works" = none of the current system. Return to 1.

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