While reading this week’s Ron Paul Institute email newsletter, published by my colleague Daniel McAdams, I was struck by a quote that I’ve certainly read before, but it’s just so relevant when reading it again today:
“We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
What is it about lies?
Why are we constantly tasked with wading through a sea of lies?
Well, part of the reason is in the nature of human action. All human action is purposeful behavior. Every action that we choose to make is an attempt to achieve a goal that we’ve set for ourselves.
In addition to choosing the goal, we also choose the means that we believe will achieve that goal. This applies to complex and multi-step goals, as well as to the simplest and most immediate goals.
For example, let’s say that you’re dissatisfied because your leg itches. Your goal is to alleviate the itch. Your means in doing so is to use the nail on your index finger to scratch it.
Purposeful behavior. Chosen goal. Chosen means.
Few people think of something so simple as scratching an itch as “goal setting,” but that’s exactly what it is. That’s what every action that we take, every single moment of our lives, is.
So when you look out at 7+ billion people in our world, all hustling and bustling about, what you are seeing is human action. Purposeful behavior; with each behavior being chosen at that moment by that individual.
Now, the libertarian philosophy is this: non-aggression.
The ideas of Liberty preach that one should “pursue one’s own happiness” (i.e., choose the goals that make you happy) but make sure that you do not harm another person (or their property) when you do so. Make sure that the means that you choose, and the end that you choose, do not aggress against anyone else.
These are the natural limits to your Liberty. Your Liberty extends to person and property of others. Likewise, their Liberty extends to your person and your property. They are not to aggress against either one.
Now, in case you haven’t noticed, the libertarian philosophy has to be chosen. It is not a given. Obviously, many people reject the libertarian philosophy. Many choose to achieve their goals by harming others, and either taking or destroying their property. These individuals reject the natural limits of the Liberty and property of others. They want what they want, and will use whatever means they think will achieve their goal – even if the means are aggression.
It’s no surprise then that lies are a very popular means that are used to achieve ends. Truth and lies are interchangeable for these individuals. One is not “good” or “bad” in their value system. They just use the one that they think will “work” in that moment.
So, in a world of human actions, where one can always choose to act in a non-libertarian way, lies will always be a popular option. In other words, lies will always with us in this world. We will always be faced with them, and will always be forced to choose whether or not to believe them.
This leads to the next point…
In addition to the nature of human action, lies exist because of the nature of the human mind as well.
No man is all-knowing. We are all ignorant. We will all remain ignorant for the rest of our lives. Omniscience and omnipotence are the attributes of God; not man.
Since we are ignorant, we will frequently be presented with ideas that are untrue. Those ideas come from the mouths of other ignorant individuals.
That doesn’t mean that the false ideas that come from others always come with malicious intent. When it comes to people in power, it almost always is, but let’s say a family member comes over and starts talking about a certain subject. What he says may be laced with lies, but he doesn’t know it. He’s not looking to harm you, or fool you, or capitalize on your ignorance. He’s simply talking as honestly as he can.
So lies are not always presented with the intent of duping you.
Again, when it comes to people in power, you always have to assume first that what’s being said is intended to dupe you. It’s a shame that it has to be that way, but power is the opposite of Liberty, so it can’t be any other way. When it comes to power, you must verify first, and trust second.
Whether or not the lies that we’re presented with on a daily basis are malicious or simply out of ignorance, we each have a monumental choice that must constantly be made.
Do we choose to believe it? Or not?
Each of us is responsible for choosing which ideas to accept and believe, and which to reject.
If we choose to believe it, we will be met with a certain set of circumstances.
If we choose not to believe it, we will be met with a different set of circumstances.
Whatever we choose, we will get the results.
There can be no complaining afterwards. Actually, you can complain, but it’s too late.
You can say “Well, they lied to me! It’s not my fault!”
Yes, they did lie to you.
But you’re ultimately responsible because you chose to believe them. You didn’t have to believe them. You’re not a robot. You chose.
And that is always the beginning and end of the human story … We’re each responsible for our choices and our lives.
We’re each responsible for choosing our goals.
We’re each responsible for choosing the means that we believe will attain those goals.
We’re each responsible for choosing whether to adhere to the principles of Liberty or to power.
We’re each responsible for telling the truth or telling lies.
We’re each responsible of choosing what to believe and what to reject.
We each have individual Liberty, which necessarily means we are each responsible.
**By Chris Rossini