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A Policy of Truth

After 9/11, lawmakers passed all sorts of laws to pacify the populace. Remember that the planes were taken over with box cutters as weapons. Pass all the anti-scissor and anti-nail-clipper legislation you want, and anyone could still find something on a plane as dangerous as box cutters (piece of broken mirror, sharpened plastic knife, a pen held to the throat). It was for show. The public demanded that they be lied to, that they be assured there were simple solutions, and politicians obliged.

So maybe a policy of truth isn't a political possibility just yet. Nonetheless, I thought it would be interesting to speculate on what it might mean. Here are some of the things you might see.

"Yes I smoked pot in college. I did two chicks at once one night too. What the hell does that have to do with my being president?"

The Value of a Life

More seriously, imagine if a politician said, "We can't make things perfectly safe, nor do we want to. We could have an extremely safe car if we were willing to pay $120,000. We aren't, so we have to pick a level of safety that is acceptable. All costs of regulations and safety devices are of course passed on to the ultimate consumer. It has been decided that each additional life saved justifies the imposition ten million dollars in costs on the industry. If a measure cannot save a life statistically for this amount or less, it will not be passed into law."

This is the policy of truth, remember. Couldn't we make cars safer at some cost? Isn't it already true that we are only willing to pay just so much to save lives? Why not be scientific about it? Otherwise, we might be adding $1000 to the price of a car for measures that save fewer lives than a $500 option. This cold calculation doesn't seem nearly as cold to me as allowing more people to die, just so we can maintain pleasant lies.

The Cost of Freedom

Of course it costs money to maintain our freedoms, and it costs lives too. Again, though, there is no honesty here. We want to pretend that we can somehow have perfect safety. Imagine if a politician said this:

"We can't win the war on terror. There always have been terrorists and there always will be. We don't pretend that by declaring a "war on theft" we could stop the six thousand year old reality of people stealing things. Let's not pretend we can eliminate terror or terrorist. Let's instead look honestly and rationally at the various measures available to us for reducing the threat. Then we can make decisions rationally, based on the cost in money, lives and freedom."


What would we be hearing if we were hearing the truth from politicians?

"I had to vote for the bill or I wouldn't get that campaign contribution."

"I really don't understand this issue."

"Of course there are far worse regimes, but they don't control the oil."

"I don't care about the rest of the country. I need this pork project for my district to get re-elected."

"If you reporters ask me questions that piss me off, you won't be invited back."

Don't expect a policy of truthfulness in politics anytime soon.

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Policy of Truth