Deceitfulness Is Flourishing. Paul Craig Roberts Thinks It’s Got Out of Hand
by Mary W Maxwell, LLB
Humans deceive. Some animals do, too. For the individual who is doing the deceiving, it is generally advantageous – it helps him get a better outcome. For the ones being deceived, it often brings a disadvantage; he loses something he would have been able to keep, had the deceiver not intruded.
Let’s look at the animal kingdom. When you are studying a predatory species, you may be “rootin” on the side of its ability to out-run or out-swim the prey creature. Or, to outsmart the prey by deceiving it --- say it lures the creature to come close, as though for a treat. When the prey comes close to inspect it, the predator grabs it for dinner. Yay!
But if you happen to be studying a species that is normally preyed upon, you will root for the home team, the prey. It is common for a prey species to have evolved a types of disguise. It may have a natural camouflage color or some other way of hiding. Or it may play dead. Or it may or sing out a tune that confuses the predator, and thus saves its life.
My point is that animals have a need for food and the need to escape death, and that whatever helps that is judged to be OK. Deceitfulness is one of wonderful Nature’s wonderful ways. Before humans came along, there was no moral evaluation of deceit. You won’t find any animal going to jail for having committed perjury. They can perjure all they like.
Foreign Enemies and War
Now let’s look at another main way in which we generally approve of deceit. Do you remember “Beware Greeks bearing gifts?” The city of Troy believed the Greek’s deceitful story that they were sending a wooden horse to them as a gift. The Trojans foolishly allowed it in, and at night out stepped from inside the horse a bunch of soldiers. Oops.
If you were reading such a thing in a novel, you would root for the clever Greeks who figured out a way to make war. Likewise, when you read about your own nation doing some military trick, you tend to feel approving of it as long as it attains the desired end.
Conversely, when you learn that an enemy has done something to your group, their honesty comes under scrutiny. You are unlikely to say “All’s fair; we’d do the same thing” (even if we’ve famously done it many times). I grew up thinking that Germans and Japanese had a lower moral code than my group. I mean hey, they did bad things -- they dropped bombs!
In sum, the benefit of intergroup deceitfulness depends on where you are standing.
But What about Deceiving in One’s Own Group?
We live in societies. There aren’t any Robinson Crusoe’s going it alone. We have made deals with fellow members of the society. Granted, that is an abstraction. What really happened was that our forebears set up certain social structures and we were born into them.
Are there predators and prey within our social group? Sure, there are individuals who prey on others. Usually they don’t eat them for dinner. They use the “prey” to do labor. They use the prey for sex. They take the prey’s money to add to their own coffers. They recruit prey to be their defenders against even stronger predators. And so forth.
In my lifetime I have seen a big falling off of the value of honesty. In school we did not guffaw when we read Longfellow’s poem “The Village Blacksmith.” See if you guffaw now:
“Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
“His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man….”
Huh? “Owes not any man”? No credit cards? Isn’t that bad for the economy? The poem continues:
“Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.”
The Food Source Can Design a Society
A major change in human life took place about 10,000 years ago when people figured out how to grow food rather than just gather it. The agricultural revolution allowed towns to build up. Crops could be sent from the hinterland into the populated area.
As recently as six or seven generations ago in the US, people knew where their food was coming from. Farmers held markets. You could actually deal with the producer. This made for honesty. “Honesty is good for business.” If the seller used a dodgy weighing scale, he might get in trouble with his customers.
But now we think food comes from a supermarket – it just gets there on its own accord! I assume very few New Yorkers have a sense of their relationship to the guy who grew their wheat, potatoes, coffee or sugar.
Another factor is that when you don’t regularly enter into deals with others, and thus can’t monitor their honesty, you will start to lose the incentive to be honest yourself. If cheating is taken for granted, the person who refrains from cheating will feel like a chump. In fact he is a chump. The practice of honesty is a social thing – it takes two to tango.
The Big Presence of Government and Corporations
Civilized society invented both the official government -- the state – and also cooked up a way for persons to pool their wealth to undertake a capital venture – the corporation.
How did they do this? By laws. Humans naturally understand authority (presumably form the childhood dependence on parents), and thus they want to follow law. So we compose laws all the time.
And as of now, two very powerful features of our society, government and corporations, each have a way of producing laws for us to obey. And they are almost as able as “food” used to be, to design the structure of society and the relationships among individuals. How you deal with Tom, Dick, and Harry is colored by the atmosphere around you, which is an atmosphere in which government and corporations figure bigly.
An obvious characteristic of both big businesses and the state is its lack of moral constraint. “Truth” is mocked. Having a reputation for honesty is definitely not something that worries members of those two institutions.
This portends terrible things. We are all caught up in a complicated system where personal adherence to the society’s stated ideals is not the motivator it used to be. How far can this go before we collapse?
Ask Paul Craig Roberts
On his website (paulcraigroberts.org) today, June 7, 2021, the political economist Paul Craig Roberts wrote:
“A civilized society rests on truth and fact, not on deception and deceit. As truth and fact are censored, and deception and deceit are all that we have, we clearly do not have a civilized society.
“Indeed, a person cannot find signs anywhere in the US of a civilized society. In place of debate we have screamed insults, threats, and cancelled persons. The fate of defendants, such as officer Chauvin, are decided in the media and not in honest trials. Scientists and medical authorities lie for money as do journalists.
“Truth has no guardians in official positions, least of all in universities. [Just fathom that!]
“Governments serve undeclared agendas and orchestrate fear in order to achieve their agendas. Countries are invaded and bombed on the basis of lies and false accusations. Constitutional protections are taken away in order to protect us with unrestrained and unaccountable government police power. This list goes on.”
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury in the 1980s, and an associate editor of the Wall St Journal. He was on a committee to investigate whether the Soviets really had the ability to win an arms race. He says:
“Yet in the 21st century I was declared a “Russian agent/Putin dupe” by a new website called PropOrNot that could not be identified and perhaps was funded by the CIA, and which was endorsed by the Washington Post, a suspected long-term CIA asset. I was labeled a Russian agent for the same reason Trump was subjected to the Russiagate hoax—to prevent normal relations with Russia. … Normal relations with Russia would mean a reduction in the budget and power of the military/security complex. Thus, those of us in favor of reducing the chances of nuclear war were said to be against America and for Russia.
“Not content with this, I was next labeled an ‘anti-semite’ because I posted as a guest column an article by an Israeli citizen critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The fact that I permitted free speech to an Israeli meant I was anti-semitic.
“Not content with this, I was declared a ‘holocaust denier’ when I quoted in a book review David Irving’s report that although he has documented many Nazi atrocities against Jews, he has not been able to find any evidence anywhere of an organized policy of holocaust despite 50 years of searching.”
“These attacks were designed to reduce the readership of my website. If I can be misrepresented, little wonder that expert scientists who raise expert questions about Covid and its treatment can be silenced or that 3,000 high-rise architects and structural engineers can be dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ by scientifically ignorant presstitutes incapable of high school algebra.
“We live in a country in which people of good character and solid expertise can be dismissed and even demonized by ignorant fools of zero accomplishment. In other words, leadership by the capable is impossible. To put it another way, in the US today character, integrity, facts, and truth are of no consequence. The elite have an agenda, and all those in the way are run over.”
I am in favor of turning the clock back. I agree with Paul Craig Roberts that “We can’t have this.” It’s not biologically tenable. Human interactions beyond the family (as within the family) are based on some mechanism of trust. This has to do with fair exchange. I will give up some of my prerogatives (not too many, please!) so you, too can have your prerogatives.
The mechanism also has to do with authority. Every normal human can recognize and feel comforted by an authority that makes fair rules. For a while in the 20th century, we continued to carry over our old expectations that the Constitution, which is basically a covenant, would be honored.
I say the best way to deal now would be to get back on that track. Sure, the blacksmith poem is a bit mushy, but it bespeaks reality:
“Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.”
I also think a little patriotism would go a long way. I mean honest patriotism. Actually I mean dead-honest patriotism.
Dear Rayelan, here’s a Happy Birthday song for your Rumormill that could only happen in 2021: