Lying for Santa

Opinion | Margaret Childs | December 2011 / January 2012

The holiday season is upon us, and 99% of us are protesting bankers, big business and bonuses. At this time of year, people living in countries with Christian traditions are battered into submission by call centre infomercials collecting money for the hungry, the orphaned, the blind – anything, really. We save up all our goodness for one time of year, when some of us get extra Christmas pay, or we just want to up our deductibles. Or maybe we really do feel like doing good.

In February 2011, one market analyst promised another crash by Christmas. "Politicians lie, bankers lie. Yes, they’re liars," he confided. "But they’re not bad; it’s in their genes, inherited. Their brains are just wired that way, warn scientists. Like addicts, they can’t help themselves. They want to sell stuff and get rich."

In what sense are they a separate breed of human? Do people develop this quality and then become bankers and politicians, or does being a politician or a banker encourage them to want to "sell stuff and get rich"? The columnist called it the "eternal dance of death", in which we want to believe they’re telling us the truth, but in fact they lie "93% of the time".

This isn’t exactly news. Lying in positions of power is undoubtedly part of the job. But since when was it part of the job to act against your clients’ interests? For bankers, that ought to be bad for a business; reputation is your calling card. For politicians, the lies are at least out in the open, and the voters get to decide if they like the lies you’re telling. Otherwise they don’t re-elect you.

So why do we warm up to the holidays? We lost everything in the crash or, in some countries (like America), due to bad public policy. Yet U.S. stores still got raided on "Black Friday" and world-wide, donations to charity are reported at an all time high. Don’t we know that the people we are giving our money to could be secret bankers and politicians – who just want to "sell stuff and get rich."

The rest of us may just be "wired" to buy stuff and go into debt.


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