Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 17, 2011

in Politics

… is from page 527 of Will Durant’s The Reformation:

[I]t is a lesson of history that men lie most when they govern states.

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SweetLiberty August 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Politicians lie? Say it ain’t so!

vidyohs August 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Seriously? Whodathunk it.

W.E. Heasley August 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

“[I]t is a lesson of history that men lie most when they govern states.”

The Invisible Hand in Economics and Politics. -Milton Friedman, 1981.

The visible hand of politics being all the grand and noble plans to help the common man. The invisible hand of politics then takes over and all the lovely noble policies turn into abysmal results as short term/first stage economic consequences fitting politicos’ short term political horizon [next election] turn into long term cascading unintended economic consequences complete with corruption and massive waste..


The grand and noble central planning promoted by politicos to save the common man aka “lies”, end with states being governed by a policy of lies.

*Tsk tsk* tut tut.

JS August 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

The human condition is to lie. It’s natural for man to want to control the opinions others have of him, and in order to improve one’s circumstances, it only makes sense to downplay the actual selfushness that drives us. Anyone who thinks they are different are the biggest liars of all.

All politics is private interest that masquerades as public interest. The ‘invisible hand’ is ‘competition’ whereby totalitarian individuals are forced to compromise with others just like them.

There is simply no way that the human race would have survived without the consumate selfishness inherent in our nature. The concept of moral man as unselfish is fiction; a big lie. Any morality we exhibit is in our selfish interest to gratify our egos, our need to be loved or respected, or to preserve our lives.

Scott G August 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Based on your own logic, we can’t trust what you saying.

By the way, have you read Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS)? It discusses the side of man that desires to sympathize with others (i.e. not lie).

Stone Glasgow August 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Scott, I think you missed his point. It is impossible to be selfless because even altruistic acts are internally (selfishly) motivated. We want to help others because it’s fun, makes us feel good, or makes us look good.

If we empathize and help, we still derive personal enjoyment from helping others. Even if a man truly suffers to help, we can more accurately call him a masochist than a saint.

vidyohs August 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Well sometimes it makes sense to help others on a practical level, as well; and, practical is not always fun, feel good, or look good.

“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”, well give him practical help to get him off your back even if you think he is a thumb sucking socialist and dealing with him is a pain in the ass.

JS August 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Read the influences of Mandeville on Adam Smith and Hume and understand that there was considerable pressure on them not to publicly support his opinions on egocentrism, which went against the thrust of Chuch teaching. Read “Fable of the Bees” to learn about how the ego functions. It’s a brilliant work.

Everything we think and do is to please ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we don’t seek to please others as a means to pleasing ourselves.

I like to say that it’s easier to lie to others when you have first lied to and deceived yourself about the true motivations of what you do. Most people don’t understand themselves, which makes it impossible for them to understand how human society really works

Stone Glasgow August 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Well said, TS.

juan carlos vera August 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Your statement “we are all liars” is nonsense.
1-If that statement is true, then someone, who postulates it, is not a liars; which contradicts your statement.
2-If that statement is false, because it was enunciated by a liar, then there is someone else who tells the truth; which also contradicts your statement.

As you see in any case your statement leads to a contradiction; so it makes no sense…

Stone Glasgow August 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm

We all lie from time to time. Not all the time or every time.

Darren August 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm

To be a liar means asserting a thing to be true that you know to be false (or vice versa). If someone believed a thing to be true and declared it to be true while it was in fact false, that person would NOT be a liar, just mistaken.

JS August 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

We all lie when we want to, but not everything we say is a lie. I said everybody lies as a matter of course. It is necessary for civil society and is the foundation for all manners. We lie to others in order to please them. You lie everyday, many, many times, or you would be considered a social misfit.

The blunt truth is very damaging to human social relationships, and we lie to everyone in order to try to control our reputations and the general opinions that others hold of us. We assume many subtle personality changes depending on who we’re with. We have a different image that we cultivate depending on the audience that we’re trying to impress, etc.

Gil August 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I would agree.

Ken August 17, 2011 at 11:20 pm

This is absolutely false. Lying is deliberately stating a falsehood or deliberately misleading someone. Politeness does NOT require lies. Generally, what it requires is not keep your mouth shut if can’t think of a nice way to say something, or simply change the subject.

There are polite ways to tell people they are wrong, they are acting stupidly, they look terrible, they have made a mistake, etc. None of them require lying. Blunt truth, by which I’m assuming being rude, isn’t needed either. Simply a little self-control and tact.

What type of friends do you have and life do you live that you feel the need to constantly lie to them or be labeled a social misfit? Regularly lying to manipulate the people around you, to get them to like you or do what you want, is sociopathic and/or psychopathic.


Henri Hein August 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I reject your view. Some men and women are truly compassionate. It is true that selfishness is also important, perhaps more important, to human welfare than compassion. Nevertheless, nobility is also part of us and should not be neglected.

JS August 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Human compassion is rooted in selfishness, or self love, which translates ultimately to our desire for love and affection from others, respect, or adulation. The selfishness we possess is total. We do nothing that doesn’t please us first.

That said, some people’s emotions related to pride have been conditioned toward what we would define as moral action more than others. What might make one person feel guilty about may have little effect on another. We make value distinctions between those different types of people, saying one is selfish and the other compassionate, but the real difference is that their emotions related to sympathy have been educated differently. A compassionate action that one makes so as not to feel shame is not felt in the same way by the other person.

However, the truth about ourselves is not always welcome. We prefer to think of ourselves as better than others, rather than just different. We like to think that we rationally chose how our emotions were conditioned to respond to certain types of behavior, but the pride, shame and guilt that you feel had little to do with you, and everything to do with the values that we’re taught to you as a child, which became attached to your emotions before you were old enough to understand what had taken place.

If you study the course of history, you will easily see that what might bring forth pride in one age, would cause shame in another.

juan carlos vera August 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I think the point of Don is different from that you raise…

Henri Hein August 18, 2011 at 1:12 am

JS, you come across as someone completely void of true compassion yourself, or you would not so completely misrepresent that side of human nature.

For instance, compassion is often not value driven at all. For the samaritan, the need to help is not a choice, it’s a compulsion. They see someone in need and they *have* to help.

But Juan is right, we are way off Don’s point…

JS August 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m sorry I went off topic, but all action is value driven. The good samaritan acts according to his values.

The point made by Will Durant should be understood to mean that as motivations and incentives to lie increase, then so will lying. It is not a phenomenon limited to politicians as much as it is part of the human condition, applicable to everyone, except for Mr. Hein.

The good samaritan can also be a dictator given opportunity. The lesson to learn is to limit the power available to people and groups, rather than to hope that a good samaritan will be in charge.

And those who preach about compassion should never be trusted.

Sam Grove August 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm

We like to think that we rationally chose how our emotions were conditioned to respond to certain types of behavior,


Choice comes from the emotional center. It may rational if we have emotionally attached value to reason.

Henri Hein August 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

JS, you are mixing the topics again. We were not talking about control, we were talking about motive.

And those who never preach about compassion works in accounting.

Sam Grove August 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

There are two value systems among humans.

The one held by those the lean toward sociopathy and one held by those that lean toward mutuality.

Those that hold to the latter system value the trust that others place in them for they realize that survival is enhanced by cooperation which requires that trust in order to sustain the greater benefit of cooperative action.

Scott G August 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Interesting. I never would have come up with that myself, but it sounds accurate. I wonder if it’s really true.

Maybe up there in the running, is that men lie a great deal when they have affairs, second only to the amount they lie when they govern states. In what other situations do men most lie? Maybe in telling the truth about the length of their private part, or at least acting like it’s bigger than it really is?

vidyohs August 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Fish they caught.
Strokes it took to get through 18 holes of golf.
How little they ate for lunch.
How few drinks they had with that lunch.
How much they love shopping with her.
Her mother really is welcome.
How fat those pants make her ass look
The wart on that girls nose, not her butt or boobs.
Gosh the list in long.

rbd August 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm

And yet we bestow titles of honor on these men of noble: we stand up when they enter a room; we salute them whilst in uniform; we build grand offices made from granite for them to labor in; and we pay them handsomely and reward them with lavish gifts.

Man, I’m in the wrong profession.

muirgeo August 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm


Remember that little bet about global warming and weather disasters, Dr. Boudreaux?

Greg Webb August 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

George, what man-made global warming?

muirgeo August 18, 2011 at 8:55 am


I did not write that post….

Greg Webb August 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Okay, George. Thanks for letting me know. Sorry that I mistook it for you.

Ken August 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm


You misremember the bet, or true to your nature, are lying. The bet absolutely wasn’t fewer natural disasters or even less damage. The bet was fewer American deaths as a result of those disasters.



brotio August 18, 2011 at 12:22 am

Coyote has a great post regarding the honesty of Apostles in The Church of Anthropogenic Climate Change (formerly known as The Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming, which is led by His Holiness: The Divine Prophet Algore I.


Dan J August 18, 2011 at 2:35 am

Muirgeo wrote this:
FUCK you and the fruits of your labor you POS. You aren’t the only one laboring you selfish shortsighted ignorant twit!

Don’t go on any public roads or use ANY public services tomorrow you jack ASS hypocrite because if you do you are using the fruits of other peoples labor… you pathetic child!

” when you have to compare what I stand for to dictators and communist regimes then you have lost the debate”- muirgeo

HAHAHAHA!!!!! Most likely, when you resort to “F.U.” and go on a tirade of expletives ……. You have lost the debate!!!

brotio August 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm


And yes, Yasafi did post those.

You got him so spittin’ mad, I thought he was going to call for Mother Gaia to drown you in a tidal wave of crude, but Yasafi has never been that mad…

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

It was funny. I have posted this several times. Want to be sure ALL have seen it.

Ken August 18, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Why do you call him Yasafi?


brotio August 18, 2011 at 10:53 pm

It’s an acronym: You Are Such A…

tdp August 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I think anybody is entitled to keep the fruits of his labor. Why else do you labor if not to reap the benefits of laboring? If you could mooch off others you wouldn’t work…oh, wait! We already have a system like that!

muirgeo August 18, 2011 at 8:54 am

That’s not my post…

Greg Webb August 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Don, this is an fabulous quote from Will Durant.

Simon August 18, 2011 at 4:15 am

Should I laugh or should I cry?

Slappy McFee August 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

Sorry Don, but Mr Durant is wrong on this point.

Men lie the most when confronted by angry wives.

chris August 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

most men lie at the alter when they say “i do”

muirgeo August 18, 2011 at 9:28 am

Finally Obama has another stimulus coming…so glad he finally realized we needed a bigger one last time. A stimulus always works if you do it right and it gets more money flowing around in the economy. Enough with this neoliberal babble about private sector needing to do the spending because they WON’T. Only the public sector will spend and lead to more hiring which is why the private sector makes record profits without hiring anybody…only greedy corporate bastards profit with neoliberalism.

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

It was funny…. Now just confusing.

chris August 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

that’s not muirgeo – i know not because of the missing avatar, but all the words were spelled correctly.

Richard Stands August 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Similar to a quote which might actually have been from Lincoln:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Parake3t August 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I’m signed up to take microeconomics this fall in college. The textbook is written by Krugman. Reason to despair?

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