Lie to me

Sarah Barmak considers the role of rhetoric in a recession.

The notion that leaders have a responsibility to communicate “noble lies” to the public in order to preserve order and the greater good dates back to Plato. Closer to our time, it has cropped up in the work of the late neoconservative political scientist Leo Strauss.

Some caution that while the idea of extra-rational economic forces could have merit, it is not a reason for economists to filter reality to cushion the blow. Oxford economics professor Simon Wren-Lewis says he would worry about the ethics of specious optimism.

“Economists should say what they believe,” he says. “Trying to inspire confidence when it is not founded is also a dangerous game for anyone to play, because once what you are doing is recognized, trust disappears.”

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