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The Burnsville Socrates Cafe Message Board The Burnsville Socrates Cafe Discussion Forum › 2/1/11 questions/discussion

2/1/11 questions/discussion

Jon A.
Group Organizer
Saint Paul, MN
1. What would democracy look like in Egypt?

2. Is there an alternative to the market economy?

3. Are there "merit goods" and if so. what are they?

4. Are there other kinds of democracy?

5. When is it most likely -- for both good and bad reasons -- that we will ignore reality?


And tonight's question: CAN WE FUNCTION WITHOUT LYING? -- asked by Kevin

Kevin: we get so many half truths, we seem to be teaching our youth to lie.

Jon: would our kids tell the truth if we didn't train them to lie?

Larry: he's afraid if he doesn't lie teammates/coaches will hassle him

John: for team sports it's OK. In golf it's a bigger deal

Kevin: this is just an example; next the kids can take it off the field into their lives

Shannon: lying is a social lubricant

Jon: good manners are sometimes dishonest but they serve a larger need -- build social cohesions, get work done

Shannon: what's a more important value? What's the point of the lying?

Kevin: in a courtroom lawyers will lie for their clients, yes?

Shannon: It's the state's burden to prove guilt. Defense attorneys bear no obligation to reveal truths that are not asked of them. It depends on presentation, how one presents info can be or not be dishonest

Jim: what about gray area? Shading words, spin. Integrity and lying are sometimes a good combination. Telling a lie can help maintain good things where honesty can be very harmful. For example the way a married man should relate with his mother in law . . …

(Jon: ?)

Kevin: politics -- soundbites. spin.

Shannon: what's the definition of lying?

Kevin: intentional deception.

Jim: if I've done something wrong and keep it secret this lacks integrity.

Shannon: isn't silence deceptive sometimes?

Jon: in the interests of "the greater good", how do we distinguish when it is or isn't for the good?

Kevin: with my boss I can only lose my job, wife there's more at stake. Integrity means different things in each context

Steve: when in business school we once quizzed a lawyer who visited: how can you protect a guilty man. He said that's not the objective. The objective is to provide the best defense possible. Guilt or innocence is not primary. the process working is primary. My teen daughters often say things that make me wonder if it is true.

End result is important: why we're lying.

Jon: Once, in the 50's an American company was making some kind of plastic that was damaging the bones of its employees. The company's research discovered this harm early on but kept it secret from everyone. Many years later employees themselves learned it via research by their doctors but with permanent and deadly damage long since already done. Bill Moyers asked that company's attorney why they didn't inform their workers as soon as they knew. The lawyer said "that's not their job, that's the job of the employee and his doctor."

Steve: that's different from the ways two businesses contract with each other in terms of how much they disclose. That example above is clearly intentional deception by omission and unacceptable because it's too disrespectful of those employees who helped create a product. Competitive advantages are not of that nature.

Dick: governmentally, are we to get behind leaders who lie, like we would those athletes? At what scale does the lying matter?

Jon: did NASA lie about that O-Ring? Pressure to perform can make us lie

Steve: our leaders should lie to bad guys if it's for a good reason

John: workers comp. prevents adversarial relationships between employees and employers. It's conceivable that the legal system may create incentive to lie for fear of losing a big law suit. Does a person have a right to the truth? Ought one lie to the Nazis when they ask if Anne Frank's in the house?

Jon: what about gray area? Where it's not so obvious, when we're not dealing with real nazis, real tyrants?

Steve: what about protecting political refugees or protecting illegal immigrants?

John: there's a difference between providing truthful info vs. being asked a direct question. The law isn't always a good thing to enforce.

Larry: re: Michelle Bachman -- Annenberg foundation found that all our current pols lie. But Michelle had 13 lies (some kind of record), 6 were false, 7 were "ridiculously false." Even after told she was wrong she continued that lie.

But we need lying to function, otherwise we're robots. Dishonesty makes us human. Imagination is natural to us and is required for dishonesty.

Shannon: why do presidents take so much responsibility for "accomplishments" while denying responsibility for troubles?

Larry: lying can be useful for "saving face".

Shannon: intention -- that's where it's difficult. Legally it's the "reasonable person" measure. Responsibility to uncover what is untrue. It's the ref's job to call the play. It's the football player's job to catch the pass. The athlete has no obligation to say whether or not he actually caught it.

Dick: an employee who doesn't do his work because he expects his super. to babysit him is lying (to himself) and shirking responsibility.

Shannon: responsibility is about who has what responsibility. It's about being conscious of what we each bear.

Dick: Facebook's Zuckerman's a big liar. He deceived early collaborators.


Well once more Kevin's question gets picked. He rarely asks 'em but when he does they're irresistible.

See everyone next week!
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