Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.
The latest catastrophe, the Covid-19 pandemic, has revealed the deep untruth underlying Adam Smith’s claim that ‘individuals, without desiring or knowing it, and while pursuing each his own interest, are working for the direct realisation of the general interest.’ The truth is that individuals pursuing their own interests produce group identities that have no sense of the general interest, but are rather marked by feelings of oppression, resentment or both. Only social trust and collective action, involving not only democratic co-ordination but genuine leadership, have a chance of returning us to a sense of the collective interest.BACK TO TOP