The self-deception of Western societies

GIS Statement* by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Self-deception and dogmatism leading countries to their doom is nothing new. Historically, such a tendency among the ruling elites has led to major disruptions. As the ill-conceived climate policies and public overspending demonstrate in our time, democracies can be rigged to fall into this trap as well.

Catastrophic self-delusion affects democratic countries (source: GIS)
Catastrophic self-delusion affects democratic countries (source: GIS)


The German journalist Gabor Steingart remarked once that the modern citizen is neither Catholic nor Protestant but Politically Correct. “The highest Commandment is that in the name of the good thou should lie to yourself,” he tweeted.

Periods of massive-scale self-deception occur regularly in history and usually lead to cataclysmic disruptions. The typical symptoms of such a process are intolerance of divergent opinions, silencing debates and the rise of conspiracy theories, paradoxically accompanied by frequently hurtling conspiracy charges to muzzle dissenters.

Self-deception is usually coupled with a self-perpetuating of the political elite that requires a constant repetition of the prevailing narrative. The afflicted come to believe this discourse even when facts contradict it. As the consequences of real developments can be devastating to the elite, it is convenient – actually, from their viewpoint, necessary – to suppress the disturbing truth. Pragmatism gives way to dogmatism.

Many instances in history illustrate this mechanism. The ruling elites of France ignored the economic and social situation before the French Revolution. In Nazi Germany, official optimism prevailed until the very end of World War II. Against all logic, France tried to keep the colonial empire alive, leading to frustrating wars in Indochina and Algeria. And France and the United Kingdom succumbed to self-deception in 1956, when they went to war to preserve control of the Suez Canal …

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The self-deception of Western societies


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