RM Issue #030521
Politicians lie, new study shows
Report asserts that lying is key part of democracy
LONDON, May 17 — It’s official. After intensive research, scientists have concluded that politicians lie.
‘Politics should be regarded as less like an exercise in producing truthful statements and more like a poker game.’
— GLEN NEWEY
Political scientist, University of Strathclyde
IN A STUDY described in Britain’s Observer newspaper, Glen Newey, a political scientist at Britain’s University of Strathclyde, concluded that lying is an important part of politics in the modern democracy.
“Politicians need to be more honest about lying,” he told the newspaper.
According to Newey, whose findings were published by the government-funded Economic and Social Research Council, voters expect to be lied to in certain circumstances, and sometimes even require it.
“Politics should be regarded as less like an exercise in producing truthful statements and more like a poker game,” he said. “And there is an expectation by a poker player that you try to deceive them as part of the game.”
Newey said lying by politicians can occasionally be entirely justified, such as when national security is at risk, and the public even has a “right to be lied to” in cases where they do not expect to be told the whole truth, such as during a war.
But the main cause of lying is increased probing by the
public into areas that the government would rather not discuss candidly. If voters only asked fewer questions, politicians would tell them fewer lies.
Bill Clinton famously lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, while earlier philandering U.S. presidents never had to lie about their affairs, because nobody ever asked.
“When journalists or parliamentary colleagues start to probe at that area which the government wants to keep secret, you are more likely to be pushed further and further toward the territory of lying,” Newey said.
©2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.