By Lionel Cliffe
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Extra info for The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy
The representative role of the politician which requires them to act in the interests of those they represent justifies political lies when they promote good consequences, whereas justifications in private life are not principally consequentialist, but governed by more complex and disparate values such as love, fairness, friendship and integrity (see also Hampshire, 1978). In relation to both political and private instances of lying, however, there is often a continuity of consequentialist justification in both.
Commercial confidentiality is necessary to avoid industrial sabotage and to prevent competitive markets from being disadvantaged. Secrecy in policy deliberations of government and other bodies is justified because private debate is necessary for a candid exchange of views and because it produces more rational policies free from public pressure. In relation to lying, it cannot be predicted what range of issues may be thought to be in the public interest. They may range from lies told about unemployment and crime figures, to lies told about trading arms to hostile foreigners, to lies told about the causes and effects of disease and epidemic.
Deceit and secrecy by government officials offends against the fundamental constitutional principle of accountability (Friedrich, 1972: 177–80). The withholding or distorting of information or the spread of false information means that citizens cannot collectively decide whether to support or reject public policies. Concealment, deceit, secrecy and manipulation prevent citizens making judgements about the acceptability of moral costs or the rightness or wrongness of government actions and decisions.