The Noble Lie of Liberalism

"The 'Noble Lie' of liberalism is shattering because it continues to be believed and defended by those who benefit from it, while it is increasingly seen as a lie, and not an especially noble one, by the new servant class that liberalism has produced... But liberalism's apologists regard pervasive discontent, political dysfunction, economic inequality, civic disconnection, and populist rejection as accidental problems disconnected from systemic causes, because their self-deception is generated by enormous reservoirs of self-interest in the maintenance of the present system." -- Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, p. 180

Deneen makes a particularly important, and often misunderstood, point in the above quote: often, when it is pointed out that it is in the self-interest of commentator X to take view Y, someone will respond, "No, I am sure that X really believes Y!" But that response misses the point: when it is in our self-interest to believe Y, very often, we will not merely feign belief in Y, but actually talk ourselves into really believing Y: and we will convince ourselves that we believe it for the most admirable reasons. This self-deception is crucial to the maintenance of our self-image as good, modern "free thinkers": it just happens that our "free thinking" has led us to just the views that most help us get on in life! What a blessing!



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