By Guy W
Leo Strauss believed that rule by way of deception was the best we could hope for. But I wonder whether he was indeed right. Strauss made the argument that it was important for religion to be disseminated to the people by the elite (who would pretend to be religious). The elite would understand that religion was fake, that there is no morality, but they would give religion to the people nevertheless so that the people would be mollified. The analogy given is that of Santa Clause. It is assumed by many parents that what is best for the children is that they are fed the lie of Santa Clause so that they can be happy. But is happiness good?
It is important first to understand that the Santa Clause analogy is not perfect. Power and religion can be a dangerous mix. In America there is separation of State and Church to prevent this sort of danger from reaching full fruition, but in many other states there are no constitutions available to prevent the reign of a theocracy. What if not everyone follows the religion? What if those in power do not tolerate the idea that not everyone will follow the religion? If a child believed in Santa Clause, he may be rewarded with presents and the deception will allow him to experience an entertaining fiction. But if the child doesn't believe in Santa Clause, then it is unlikely that the parents will mind too much. On the other hand, if a government set upon a group of people a state religion and if members of this group of people refused to follow that religion, then what if the government forces the religion on the people? The father-on-son example with Santa Clause is different because the father and son operate under the jurisdiction of the state. The government, however, operates under no law. The government is the highest level of authority and where there is the highest level of authority, there is the potential for misuse of that power. If a child doesn't believe in Santa Clause, that is his right and he has the freedom to do that because the government has given that child that freedom. The father or mother cannot force the child to believe in Santa Clause because that would be illegal and the parents would soon find themselves facing the police. On the other hand, if the government pushes religion on the people in a similar way that parents push Santa Clause on their children, then who is there to stop the government from forcing a religion on the people? This is why religion, a higher-order myth compared to Santa Clause, can be dangerous. Leo Strauss may believe that religion is necessary for the people, but is it really? Would it be that harmful to just tell children the truth about Santa Clause?
Watching the documentary THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES, we see that the basis of neoconservatism and radical Islamism is the belief that selfish individualism is corrupt and that moral nihilism is wrong. But is it? Will it be that harmful to reveal to the people the idea that there is no right or wrong? Would it be that harmful to let people pursue their own self-interest instead of doing things for the sake of society? And as Adam Smith may argue, you can pursue your own self-interest and increase the welfare of society at the same time.
It is questionable then as to whether deception is needed in a political system. Perhaps all that is needed are the elements that the radical Islamists and the neoconservatives thought were corrupting America, i.e. individual freedom. At the end of the day, the things that are defined as corrupt by these people are things like pornography or lust, things that seem so harmless.
If you read another essay of mine titled BOOST GRADES WITH PORN, you will learn that I use pornography myself to boost my grades. This is a way that pornography can help people like me and you, so to me the idea that pornography corrupts is quite bizarre.