Lies, Deception and Democracy
BIBLIOTECA DELLA LIBERTÀ, Anno LIV, n. 225-226, maggio-dicembre 2019, DOI 10.23827/BDL_2019_3_2
30 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2020 Last revised: 13 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 17, 2019
This essay explores how far democracy is compatible with lies and deception, and whether it encourages or discourages their use by politicians. Neo-Kantian arguments, such as Newey’s, that lies and deception undermine individual autonomy and the possibility for consent go too far, given that no democratic process can be regarded as a plausible mechanism for achieving collective consent to state policies. However, they can be regarded as incompatible with a more modest account of democracy as a system of public equality among political equals. On this view, the problem with lies and deception derives from their being instruments of manipulation and domination. Both can be distinguished from ‘spin’, with a working democracy being capable of uncovering them and so incentivising politicians to be truthful. Nevertheless, while lies and deception will find you out, bullshit and post truth disregard and subvert truth respectively, and as such prove more pernicious as they admit of no standard whereby they might be challenged.
Keywords: Lies, Deception, Democracy, Bullshit, Post-truth
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