Outlawing lying and deception

I get the impression that a whole lot of bad things that happen in the world are a consequence of, and perpetuated by, lying and deception.

It is curious that neither our legal systems, nor even our religions, have adopted such a prohibition categorically. Even the Ten commandments do not prohibit lying categorically - just testifying falsely against a person.

In the past century, developed countries have started punishing lying and deception when done for profit, to some extent. Scams are frowned upon and eventually might be prosecuted. Companies are beginning to be punished for misrepresentations in their ad campaigns.

In other areas of private and public life, however, lies and deception are not merely permitted, but routine. Politicians are expected to deceive the public and lie to it. Organizations, for profit and otherwise, fund studies which seek not truth, but rather a biased distortion of truth that aligns with their interests. People cherry-pick studies and refer to only those with favorable results. Car salesmen lie about their goods. People deceive their partners and their families.

These practices create harm both direct and indirect. They create distortions which serve to cast doubt, create uncertainty and deny access to truth about topics of interest, to anyone but the sharpest minds who specialize in that topic. The expectation that you will be deceived or lied to, and must constantly be on the lookout for it, is as detrimental economically as having to constantly be wary of pickpockets and others who would rob you, kidnap you or even kill you for minor benefit. Lies and deceptions create a hostile environment where the mind has to spend most of its time to defend itself, rather than to work towards desired goals. This is unpleasant, stressful, and a waste of our most valuable, fleeting resource: our thought.

So why, then, do we not do more to punish lying and deception? Why do such transgressions result only in moral backlash, and perhaps a resignation - if that, at all? Why are liars and deceivers, professional and hobbyist alike, not treated just like criminals and thieves? Even when the lies are small, but especially when they are large?

When a drug addict breaks your car window to steal your camera, he might be causing $1,500 in damage for what is a $100 benefit to him. Lies are similarly detrimental. When someone spreads misinformation, it is generally for a small personal benefit. But the damage caused by the misinformation is often many magnitudes larger. Damage can be caused both directly, when other people suffer from the deception or lie; but even greater damage may be caused indirectly, through a loss of public trust, and therefore transactions that fail to occur as a result. For example, one act of insurance fraud harms the insurance company; but rampant fraud causes everyone's premiums to rise.

The extent of damage caused by lies is sometimes straightforward to estimate, but more often hard. And yet, if one sticks to either being honest or keeping quiet, this is generally constructive, builds trust, and has beneficial or benign results.

So why do we not make honesty standard? Not just because our parents taught us not to lie; but because a widespread expectation of honesty is essential to the proper functioning of our society, to our prosperity as a civilization, and eventually, perhaps, to our survival as a species?

Why do we tolerate a force as destructive as lies?

Comments

Echo said…
I think the problem is not so straightforward as you put it. There are situations when lie is a better way then truth. This is especially true when considering lying against some formal rules, which are not always fit to the given situation.

I think lie raises problems mainly in cases when it is merged with disrespect to the certain individual or group of people...
denis bider said…
I'm going to consider everyone who disagrees a habitual liar.

I think that only someone who values being able to lie to people would be against outlawing lying and deception, because he derives benefit from it.

Prove me wrong. If you can. :)
boris_kolar said…
Some "bad things" should not be outlawed, if either is true:
- it's hard to precisely define what constitutes violation of the law
- it's impossible (or nearly impossible) to uphold such law effectively without imposing unacceptable restrictions of freedom

Lying and deceiving surely fall in the first (and likely second as well) category. Other examples are: spam, software piracy, unrestricted money transfer, taking photos of nude children,...

Outlawing such things does more harm than good. Without law intervening, other effective measures (such as informal trust network, peer review, independent sources of information such as Wikipedia,...) can evolve more quickly.

Imagine, if lying was illegal, The Onion prank authors might get in trouble.
Anonymous said…
Lies and deceptions are not the cause of problems, they're merely the effect, a symptom of sickness. In a balanced and prosperous society, lying is unneccessary, because more efficient ways exist to achieve the same goal. As with any prohibition, we would gain nothing by putting a crime tag to lying. And yes, there is a very thin line between the truth and lack of knowledge. Instead, we should strive for knowledege and universal consciousness while tolerating different opinions on any matter.
denis bider said…
Boris: murder and theft are also difficult to define and to enforce, and yet we find it necessary to outlaw that.

Punishable lying and deception aren't that tricky to define. If you want, I can easily come up with a first draft as an example.

Anonymous, let me rephrase that for you:

"Theft and murder are not the cause of problems, they're merely the effect, a symptom of sickness. In a balanced and prosperous society, crime is unneccessary, because more efficient ways exist to achieve the same goal. As with any prohibition, we would gain nothing by putting a crime tag to crime. And yes, there is a very thin line between right and wrong. Instead, we should strive for knowledege and universal consciousness while tolerating different moral standards."

Aye, that's awesome! When are you moving to Somalia?
denis bider said…
Here's a first draft.

(1) Lying: conveying intentionally false information.

(2) Deception: a set of actions and/or communications performed with intent to create a similarly mistaken impression as with lying.

(3) Lying and deception are prohibited, except:

(a) In fiction and humor, where intended recipients can be reasonably expected to understand these as such.

(b) In groups where participants agree that lying or deception are acceptable.

-----

(3a) takes care of humor, (3b) takes care of games. We already use games to provide environments where people can vent their instincts for aggression. People can use games as an outlet to exercise their propensity to lie and deceive as well.
denis bider said…
Overall, I'm a libertarian, but a utilitarianist more so than a libertarian. If certain liberties lead to our mutual destruction, then I'm against those liberties. If certain liberties lead to strife and general unhappiness, then I'm also against those liberties. If certain liberties impede our happiness and economic potential by a large factor, then I'm also against those liberties.

I am, however, in favor of all liberties that cause more happiness than they subtract.

Lying and deception are not one of those.
daniel said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
daniel said…
Your rules don't cover the self-fulfilling prophecies; specifically cases where lying can be of great benefit to a large majority, if not all participants.

For example; government lying to citizens in times of economic distress that economy is in a good shape in order to prevent cash hoarding, which results in even more dire circumstances for almost all included.
Provided people are gullible enough:)
denis bider said…
Daniel: I don't think lying in the stated example would be very effective, because it isn't persuasive. As long as the government allows actual statistics to be published - and it should - it cannot persuasively lie this way. It only detracts from its own credibility.

In general, even if the lie is persuasive once, when people learn that the government lied to them about the situation, they will act with distrust, doubt and paranoia next time a similar situation arises.

I don't think it is good practice to start that.
daniel said…
True. Government can lose it's credibility this way. So what?
In worst case, when speaking of democracies, it results in the election of the party currently being in opposition.

"In general, even if the lie is persuasive once, when people learn that the government lied to them about the situation, they will act with distrust, doubt and paranoia next time a similar situation arises."

On this one, history isn't on your side.

Recessions occured periodically every ~10 years for the past few decades(though not as bad as the current one, but still times fully worth of being called recessions).
That didn't prevent US private savings rates dropping to record lows. This tells you that public's memory isn't a long one.

Another important benchmark is Watergate. President caught lying and deceiving flat out as it gets. Nixon's reputation suffered severely, but not that of his post. Presidents are still held in high regard.
This tells you that public attributes faults to perpetrators, not their role.

And there's a lot of truth in this words(of who, I forgot):
It's very hard to underestimate general public's intelligence.
daniel said…
Also a good piece, from which it's evident that in times of distress governments usually aren't in control of events; be that economic ones or any other on a similiar scale. Yet they almost always claim that are in control and know what to do(violating rule 1) or are doing everything to give such impression(thereby crossing the second rule).
I think it's pretty fairly to presume that speaking truth to masses in such cases would only result in everyone being worse off, if not in outright mayhem.
denis bider said…
Daniel, so you claim that our very well-being depends on lies that protect us all; and knowing the truth, god-forbid, would kill us?

So what if the government is never fully in control? So what if everyone knows this?
denis bider said…
If anything, it is the false impression that the government can control things which contributes to much human misery, as people look up to the State as some kind of mother that provides all, instead of first taking care of themselves and relying on the government only to the extent that is actually constructive.
daniel said…
"Daniel, so you claim that our very well-being depends on lies that protect us all; and knowing the truth, god-forbid, would kill us?"

I'm saying that lying can be of benefit to everyone in situations that are in their essence prisoners dillema.

"So what if the government is never fully in control? So what if everyone knows this?"

Wait a minute. Most people think it is. Otherwise Bush wouldn't get berrated for this crisis and Obama praised as it's savior.

"If anything, it is the false impression that the government can control things which contributes to much human misery, as people look up to the State as some kind of mother that provides all, instead of first taking care of themselves and relying on the government only to the extent that is actually constructive."

I agree with you very much on this. But acknowledging that in situations such as aforementioned this can be of benefit to us all.
daniel said…
Ideally people would put the full weight of responsibility on their own chest also in rough times. Unfortunately that would require honesty and personal integrity to be much higher on average Joe's list. Otherwise, I'm afraid things don't work out that well.
denis bider said…
Daniel - the reason I'm proposing to outlaw lying and deception is precisely so that personal integrity and honesty will be much higher on the average Joe's list.

In my opinion, it is the location of integrity and honesty on the average person's value system that determines whether a place works more like Scandinavia or more like Egypt.

It is up to us all to exert pressure on each other, and of course especially on teenagers and children, to develop a constructive set of values.

It is up to the State to provide a framework, a foundation, which encourages people's efforts to develop values, and discourages efforts to undermine them.

Systems are pretty successful at seeding values in this way, over the long run. You can see that in the different value sets of people who grew up in different regimes. Chances are that a person in Iran thinks women should dress modestly. Chances are that a person in Europe thinks people should have individual freedoms. Chances are that a person who grew up in socialism thinks that incomes should be redistributed.


denis: So what if the government is never fully in control? So what if everyone knows this?

Daniel: Wait a minute. Most people think it is. Otherwise Bush wouldn't get berrated for this crisis and Obama praised as it's savior.

What I meant is, so what if everyone knew this. Yes, people do lionize Presidents and attribute to them powers they don't have. But I think this is part of our problems.
daniel said…
"Daniel - the reason I'm proposing to outlaw lying and deception is precisely so that personal integrity and honesty will be much higher on the average Joe's list. "

It probably would have achieved it, yes. But still; it does nothing at preventing people not to hoard cash or run amock. Lies do in such cases.
Remember that law in democracies applies only as long as the overwhelming majority sees it as just. If St. Kitteans tommorrow decide that your head should be cut off, law prohibiting them this will be of very little good to you.

Perhaps, even when accounting for such cases, accross the board your idea pays off. I'm not saying it sucks, I'm saying there are cases when lies can be of great benefit to everyone.
Especially from a utilitarian vantage point.
denis bider said…
Daniel: "But still; it does nothing at preventing people not to hoard cash or run amock. Lies do in such cases."

I don't believe so. We have just recently passed through a period when everyone knew about economic problems, and yet people did not respond by hoarding cash massively. Governments did encourage everyone to spend, but still everyone knew about the economic problems.

If hoarding does become a problem, there are better ways to discourage it than lying unconvincingly that "times are good".

A parallel arises with bank runs, which were rampant in the U.S. a century ago. That problem wasn't solved by lying; it was solved with federal insurance of deposits. People don't run to the bank any more because deposits are insured, which is a hard fact.

Hoarding has been successfully avoided in the past, and economies jump-started, through introduction of demurrage fees. Bank notes were issued such that their validity had to be extended every month, and extending them cost a percentage of their worth. That way, everyone wanted to pass on their money, and it had to circulate.

A similar effect is achieved nowadays using inflation.
Echo said…
A good example where poor definition of truth and lie comes to play is religion. Tell me what is truth and what is lie and how will you categorically outlaw spreading stories about specific gods, saints, angels etc. How will you know, if spreading faith is lying with intent or not? The fact that faith and religion is having so many consumers in the world shows how important deception is for ordinary people.
Just imagine to try to set the measures of truth and lie in the world of fortune-tellers, bioenergetics, horoscope writers, etc. etc.

How could placebo tests work if lying was categorically prohibited?

Believing in one straightforward truth is basically just poor understanding of limitations of human minds. There is no truth and lie in nature without humans. Therefore lie itself cannot be categorically outlawed.
denis bider said…
echo: A good example where poor definition of truth and lie comes to play is religion. Tell me what is truth and what is lie and how will you categorically outlaw spreading stories about specific gods, saints, angels etc.

Ah, an excellent example!

The spreading of religion would be impeded under such a law, which I think would be a good thing. If I could have it my way, holy books would have to be classified as fiction, and people who spread religious messages would be open to challenges in the court for, effectively, lying and deceiving for profit.

More practically though, to have a good chance of such a law being passed, religion would have to be grandfathered in - that is, exempted. But just for the sake of it, if I were trying to pass a law like that, I would first try to pass it without a religious exemption. :)


echo: How could placebo tests work if lying was categorically prohibited?

I'm not sure that placebo studies even require lying. Such experiments are supposed to be double blind, which means that neither the patient nor the experimenter know what the patient is getting. The patient is told that they are getting either the real drug or the placebo, and no one knows which. That doesn't have to involve lying.

There are studies that do require lying to subjects however, especially psychological/behavioral studies. Such studies can still be conducted after getting approval from subjects. Such approval would include agreement to potentially being misled for the purposes of the study.

If your objection is that people would then know to expect deception and would look out for it, the answer is that all agreements for studies could include a clause which permitted deception, whether the study requires it or not.


echo: Believing in one straightforward truth is basically just poor understanding of limitations of human minds. There is no truth and lie in nature without humans. Therefore lie itself cannot be categorically outlawed.

Life is notoriously difficult to categorically define as well, and yet we have no problem outlawing murder.
boris_kolar said…
Another argument against outlawing lies is that such law would invade personal privacy. If people could be brought to court for "crimes" like denying homosexuality, lying to save marriage, having inconsistent religious beliefs,... we would see many more silly examples of good and honest people brought to court.

Saying things like "I believe your mom is in a better place now" at the funeral, "I don't think your tits are too small" to a girlfriend, "God bless you too" to a religious friend,... could be challenged in courts.

The examples you gave indeed call for measures that would reduce lying and deception. Laws are not the only way to raise honesty standards. Politicians, for example, could voluntarily commit themselves to harsh penalties if they are caught deceiving. Marriage agreement can do the same for a couple. Ethics codecs forbids doctors to lie to patients and that works well in practice. Independent reviews protect customers from biased advertisement. Many science journals quite successfully filter out pseudo-science. Wikipedia works surprisingly well despite almost unrestrained ability of people to convey false information.

We have all seen what stupid laws such as irrational fear of pedophilia can do. Intelligent person should be able to imagine similar mess with outlawing lies.
Anonymous said…
Denis, thank you for such a brilliant illustration of my example. Your rephrase perfectly demonstrates what the cause of the problem really is: the people who refuse to accept anything else than their own beliefs. We all perceive the truth differently, although the nature works in the same way for all of us. By rejecting other points of view and projecting their own view outside, lying and deception is born. You just need to turn on the TV to see how this works.

Unfortunately, it also makes you a liar by your own definition.
denis bider said…
boris: Another argument against outlawing lies is that such law would invade personal privacy. If people could be brought to court for "crimes" like denying homosexuality, lying to save marriage, having inconsistent religious beliefs,... we would see many more silly examples of good and honest people brought to court.

You neglect to consider how your arguments apply to things we already outlaw, and which you probably agree should be sanctioned. It used to be acceptable for a husband to hit his wife. Now it is not, and the man can be punished for it. This would have been considered an invasion of his privacy only 200 years ago.

People who deny homosexuality and lie to save a marriage may be good, but it ain't honesty. If you don't want someone to know something, you don't have to lie to them. You can say it's none of their concern.

Some people, probably yourself included, see lying as a perfectly acceptable relationship strategy. It's not. Someone who lies to save a marriage is refusing his partner the opportunity to evaluate facts and consider whether he/she still actually wants to be in the marriage. Refusing them this right by lying to them is reprehensible, regardless of rationalizations.


boris: Saying things like "I believe your mom is in a better place now" at the funeral, "I don't think your tits are too small" to a girlfriend, "God bless you too" to a religious friend,... could be challenged in courts.

Not all types of lying need to be punished with life in jail. Punishment must correlate with damage, and prosecution would as well. Theft is illegal, so if you want to, you could report a friend if he steals a single cotton swab from you.

But you wouldn't report him for that. And if you did, no one would take you seriously.


boris: Politicians, for example, could voluntarily commit themselves to harsh penalties if they are caught deceiving. Marriage agreement can do the same for a couple. Ethics codecs forbids doctors to lie to patients and that works well in practice. Independent reviews protect customers from biased advertisement. Many science journals quite successfully filter out pseudo-science.

All of these are examples of patchwork remedies in the absence of a general solution. Suppose there was no FDA, and manufacturers would allowed to put virtually anything in your food. An industry of food reviews would then develop (and in fact did develop! this was the case a century ago) to provide people with information about what is in their food. Then you would buy something based on information that turns out to be outdated, and you'd suffer from it.

That, of course, is bollocks, and that's why we now have authorities that are charged with ensuring that the food is okay. So now there's no more need for an industry to provide you with information about food safety, and you don't need to check their latest publication every time you want to buy a yoghurt. This builds trust, makes the economy way more efficient by saving everyone's time, and makes purchasing food enjoyable rather than fraught with peril and frustration.

This is because we have a general solution for food safety, rather than a patchwork to workarounds.

I am proposing a similar general solution to lies.


Anonymous: Your rephrase perfectly demonstrates what the cause of the problem really is: the people who refuse to accept anything else than their own beliefs.

Would that be you, or me?

My paraphrasing of your argument reveals its nature, of which you are now embarrassed. Make a better argument and I can respond more substantially.
verbatim said…
Just mere thinking of exempting religion and I can't take this preposition seriously. Religions represent everything you try to fight as theirs thinking pattern is: person A made a claim something is true. But it's up to a person B to prove what A said is true/not true.

Someone could face problems in science as you can come to contradictory conclusions, especially in psihological, enviromental sciences and also in economics. You have a lot of studies showing life sentence is deterring crime and studies that show it doesn't really matter. You have studies and laws all over the world stating that speed kills and yet Germany is safer with its no speed limit on motorways than almost all world countries. And the truth is?

But the most important dilemma is: could it be true that lies help develop greater economic output for a society than output would be without lies? Actually every competition is partially based on lies... not to mention whole industries.
boris_kolar said…
Not all types of lying need to be punished with life in jail. Punishment must correlate with damage, and prosecution would as well.

Now we are getting somewhere. Why not leave lying outside the reach of law and penalize damage instead? There surely are lies without a victim. Seduction games ("you're the most beautiful women I've seen",...) often include such lies and should be exempt as well.

Some people, probably yourself included, see lying as a perfectly acceptable relationship strategy.

Actually that's not true for my case. I used to be more pragmatic about these issues, because before I met my wife, I had little respect for women. I considered an average woman as deceptive, emotionally unstable, unreliable and unworthy of respect. Even then, I had a habit of always telling a woman if what I was seeking was just an adventure or a relationship. I've lost opportunities with some nice girls because I told the truth about how I feel (now I'm glad I did).

Actually every competition is partially based on lies

True. And such lies are difficult to prove. How do you prove that "our pizzas are the best in town" is a lie and not a false belief? What we need more than another law (that will be widely abused) is a set of technological and bureaucratic solutions to help creation of trustworthy sources of information.

Prove me wrong. If you can. :)

I believe I have :) In summary:
- some lies and deceptions are "crimes without a victim"
- we can achieve effectively the same by penalizing damage that results from lies
- in some cases there might be more damage by not telling a lie (example: protecting undercover cop with lies)
- such law can be abused to invade privacy (blind questions like "are you gay" to which straight people would likely answer with "no" and gay people with "none of your business" or "yes")
- because of difficulties of differentiating lies from false beliefs, inherent technical inability to combat lies (there is no effective way to deal with lies from anonymous source) technical solutions may offer a better way to combat lies and deception
denis bider said…
verbatim: Religions represent everything you try to fight as theirs thinking pattern is: person A made a claim something is true. But it's up to a person B to prove what A said is true/not true.

True. I'd prefer to NOT exempt religion.

Religious people can still speak truth if they convert sentences of the form: "Convert to my religion, or God will punish you!" to sentences of the form: "I believe there's a God who will punish you if you don't convert to my religion!"


verbatim: Someone could face problems in science as you can come to contradictory conclusions, especially in psihological, enviromental sciences and also in economics.

You don't have to face any problems if you speak honestly and do not overstep what you know. In most things, it is incorrect and misleading to say: "Phenomenon X is true". But it is correct to say: "Observation Z suggests that phenomenon X is true."

Too much certainty in science leads to long-standing dead-ends, where everyone continues to assume something false is true just because everyone assumes it's true.


verbatim: But the most important dilemma is: could it be true that lies help develop greater economic output for a society than output would be without lies? Actually every competition is partially based on lies... not to mention whole industries.

Competition is based on secrecy. Outlawing lies and deception doesn't outlaw secrecy.

However, I have wondered in the past whether secrecy is needed in the first place. I doubt it is. I think a fully transparent society would prosper.

But it seems that people are so ashamed of exposing themselves to the world (not sure why, maybe because they don't want to be caught doing something wrong, or because they want to maintain a facade) that they can't accept the possibility.
denis bider said…
The people I talked to, that is.
denis bider said…
boris: There surely are lies without a victim.

There are no lies without a victim.


boris: Seduction games ("you're the most beautiful women I've seen",...) often include such lies and should be exempt as well.

I guess that line - "you're the most beautiful woman i've ever seen" - could qualify as a joke, and be exempt as such. :)

Seriously, though, maybe you think that lying to seduce is excusable. But a man who does so is creating a false impression to change her actions from what they would be if he told her nothing, or told her the truth. If women really like to play seduction games, then let's open a club where everyone agrees to be lied to, and see how many women come.

Millions of women are in emotional pain as we speak because they have been lied to for sex. As a consequence, they grow distrustful of men, and refuse advances even from good matches. This prolongs everyone's misery, except the guy who successfully got laid.


boris: Even then, I had a habit of always telling a woman if what I was seeking was just an adventure or a relationship. I've lost opportunities with some nice girls because I told the truth about how I feel (now I'm glad I did).

So you're saying you were honest... and it paid off. :-)


boris: How do you prove that "our pizzas are the best in town" is a lie and not a false belief?

It's a lie, because taste is subjective. They can make a different statement though: "Winner of Pizza Magazine's award for best pizza 2009!"

That's more credible, too.

Then someone can still sue them for misleading if it turns out that they own Pizza Magazine, or that they are the only advertiser.


boris: some lies and deceptions are "crimes without a victim"

In my opinion, no such thing.


boris: we can achieve effectively the same by penalizing damage that results from lies

Damage can be extremely hard to estimate, but exist nevertheless. It is better to make lies punishable themselves. This shifts the burden of proving no damage to the liar, rather than requiring the accuser to prove that damage was caused.

The principle I am promoting is that truth is good in and of itself, that lies and deception are a violation of truth in and of themselves, and that this should be discouraged in general, whether or not damage can be proved.

We need as many opportunities to catch lying and stop it when we can, we can't afford to wait for an opportunity when it causes real damage. That's what we're currently doing, and in my opinion it's not working well enough.


boris: such law can be abused to invade privacy (blind questions like "are you gay" to which straight people would likely answer with "no" and gay people with "none of your business" or "yes")

The proper response is: "Why do you want to know?"

Or with more balls: "So what if I am?"

People pretending they're not gay is not benefitting the gay effort in the least. It's just perpetuating stereotypes and fear of gay-dom because we notice all the exhibitionist gays, but none of the regular closeted gays, who fit in perfectly, and don't seem out of place.

I'm not saying everyone must come out of the closet, but at least don't pretend you're straight, for gays' sake.


boris: because of difficulties of differentiating lies from false beliefs, inherent technical inability to combat lies

That's an intended feature. If you can't tell whether someone is lying or genuinely believes something - don't try to prosecute them for it.
denis bider said…
Boris - with regard to lies in seduction: I posed this question as a poll in a community I belong to. The results are that 50% of women abhor all types of being lied to, seduction included. The remaining 50% will tolerate lies during seduction, though not necessarily like it.

Again, in my world, if a woman explicitly tells you she likes a few innocent lies here and there, then she has given permission. But otherwise, it's incorrect to assume that even "white" lies are okay.
denis bider said…
Boris: I posted a follow-up poll, and the women like to hear the truth even if the question is "Do you think I'm fat?" They might like to hear it gently, but they do prefer the truth. Unless she says so, it is incorrect to assume that lying is better.
daniel said…
"Hoarding has been successfully avoided in the past, and economies jump-started, through introduction of demurrage fees. Bank notes were issued such that their validity had to be extended every month, and extending them cost a percentage of their worth. That way, everyone wanted to pass on their money, and it had to circulate."

Agreed. If this works, it's a better solution than lying.
Simon said…
Boris: I posted a follow-up poll, and the women like to hear the truth even if the question is "Do you think I'm fat?" They might like to hear it gently, but they do prefer the truth. Unless she says so, it is incorrect to assume that lying is better.

Don't forget that they might be lying. ;)

In my experiences with women, whenever they say something like "Yes, tell me, if you like someone else. Tell me, if you don't like something about me." what they really want to hear is: "I don't like anyone else. Your are perfect." and not the truth itself.

Whenever I told them the truth, I got slap in my face later on in the relationship.

I do agree with you that lying can do serious damage in someone's life and of course also in the community. I have a huge trust issues which affect my life a lot. Not in a good way. (I even believe that one of the deep reasons why you and I stopped working together is because of my trust issues.)

Your proposal seems interesting, I don’t know if it’s the best option, but I do know that it would be really hard to install it. Lies are everywhere around us. We are taught to lie to people since we are really young.
“Tell your aunt that you love the present.”
denis bider said…
Simon: I guess it's fair to mention that the community I conducted those polls in may have been biased. I would expect that people there are less jealous than average; that the relationships they're in are more honest; and that they have a greater willingness to handle truth.

That said, I think that most people desire truth, it's just that many lack the maturity to handle it. This maturity, in turn, fails to develop because people are insufficiently exposed to honesty.

If lying came to be considered as bad, and as punishable, as stealing, I think one of the primary effects would be that people would develop skills to help them cope with truth, which means greater maturity; much like a healthier work ethic is a side effect of greater maturity in a society that punishes stealing.

Overall, I think this would be a considerable net gain.

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