Monday, September 22, 2008

What I Know about Lies


Actually I know a lot more about lying than I do about economics except in the current situation where lying may have been a key element of the economic collapse.

In Cider House Rules, John Irving advances the theory that orphans lie because it is the only control they have over their lives. As an Air Force brat I found that children of military people also lied and so when I read this it hit home. Lying was a means of reshaping reality in families where you were moved sometimes three or four times in a school year.

However, there are some major problems about lying. One is that you never want it generally known that you are lying. Lying depends on being believed. This is particularly true for financial organizations and politicians. Once it is known that you have been lying about your assets or your liabilities or both you are not a good investment risk. Get caught lying about your mistresses and you are not electable. Lying is not good for home mortgages and loans. Lie about your net worth and you risk qualifying for a loan you really cannot afford.

Two it has been my experience that lies work best when you are the only one telling them. When everyone is lying you get on very shaky ground very fast. It is my opinion all investment banks were built on a tissue of lies they tell to each other.

Three is that lying is very stressful. You have to remember your lies and who you told them too. You can only keep this up for a limited amount of time. When my father got out of the military I suddenly realized two years had gone by and we had not moved, I went to my parents and asked when we were moving and they said we weren't. "But we have to move," I pleaded to no avail. "I cannot remember who I told what to." The worst part of this was that only a percentage of my friends were military because I was no longer in base schools and these civilians would not understand. My military brat kids understood. (Did you know that McCain was a military brat raised by a military brat? So he comes from a long line of liars.)

Four is that it is difficult to lie with your entire body. We have tells. Like in the interview where John McCain is asked if Palin is ready to be president and he says definitely yes with his mouth while shaking his head no. You have to believe your lies with every fiber of your being.

Five is that lies seldom work about things that are truly important. Oh, it is easy to lie about how beautiful that new shocking pink hair color looks on your aging aunt because she wants to believe that lie. And who is hurt by it.

Six you cannot lie for long when all evidence is to the contrary. They have to be believable lies. Bush tried to tell us the economy was essentially sound and we knew that was not true. We were broke. We in the middle class, used to lying about how well off we were to impress our neighbors, had begun to not believe our lies, so we definitely did not believe Bush. And knowing that he was lying so very obviously made us nervous. (See previous blog on economics and nervousness.)

Seven is probably the worst. It eventually becomes easier to lie than tell the truth. You lie when the truth would be so simple. You start forgetting which is the lie and which is the truth. Nixon never told the truth in my estimation. And I have doubts about GW Bush. I definitely do not believe the investment banks or the oil companies.