If you’re familiar with Plato’s Republic, you may recall that Plato recommends that society’s elites persuade everyone to believe a false story of the society’s origins. The purpose of the “noble lie” was to get the rabble to go along with the enlightened plan of government Plato was proposing.
That government officials frequently lie in the name of the common good comes as no surprise to any lucid person. However, most of them avoid appearing brazen about it. A notable exception occurred last week when the prime minister of Luxembourg publicly denied the existence of a secret meeting of EU finance ministers to discuss Greece’s financial crisis. At the time he made the denial, “the official limousines were already pulling up in Luxembourg.”
Der Spiegel, which had broken the story about the meeting, later interviewed the PM, who professes Christianity, and called him out on his lie. You should read the whole interview, but get this exchange in particular:
Juncker: Because the financial markets in Europe were still open and trading was still underway on Wall Street, we had to deny the existence of the meeting. Otherwise the course of the euro against the dollar, which had already fallen as a result of your report, would have plunged disastrously. . . .
SPIEGEL: Are you saying that, as a finance minister in the age of global capital markets, you cannot tell people the truth?
Juncker: I do not have a ready answer to your question. My main concern is to protect people from detriment. That’s why I feel practically compelled to make sure that no dangerous rumors begin to circulate. I’m certainly not going to go to confession because of a false denial. God understands more about the financial markets than many who write about them.
Get that? You can lie to the world and God won’t care, at least if you’re a high-ranking government official and you meant well. Plato would be so proud.