Why Governments Lie

Recently, I posted a short article explaining that the essence of the so-called “fake news” phenomenon lies not so much in the relaying of outright falsehoods, but in the selection, ordering and presentation of information in such a way as to lend a wrong impression. In passing, we noted also that the majority of “disinformation” is fostered not by private individuals posting on their Twitter or Facebook accounts, but by the government itself. In this present article, we will attempt to get to the bottom of why it is that the state is committed to disseminating so many officially believed falsehoods. As we shall see, the basic reasons are, at bottom, very simple, and are only tangentially related to the fact that governments are staffed by shameless amoralists.

First is the fact that the existence of truth on the one hand, and the discovery of truth on the other, are not the same thing. The former may be fixed and immovable, but the latter requires productive effort. Its costs real resources to discover, verify, authenticate and disseminate facts, resources which must be diverted from other uses. In short, truth costs money, and is subject to a trade-off, just like anything else. Each and every one of us must decide for ourselves the point at which spending more on obtaining information ceases to be worthwhile. In fact, it’s worth noting in this regard that no person can exist as a permanent sceptic. Even the most doubting of individuals must reach a point at which he stops investigating, testing and verifying, and accepts at least some propositions as true. The alternative is to starve to death, because the eternally doubtful would never even accept that a meal on his dinner table was able to satiate his hunger, for instance.

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