The Law of Lying


purpose: disguise


Lying is willfully saying something that one “does not believe to be true.” U.S. Code. What you believe to be true may be untrue. Lying adopts a thousand formats: Hypocrisy and politeness are two; silence is yet another. Parents tell lies to children, nurses to patients, witnesses to juries. Pinnochio lies. Sustaining a lie is more demanding than starting a lie, so even well-prepared lies crumble. Nixon lied and left. “Some earn their living by telling lies.” Nanak. Drongo calls out a false alarm about looming predators to scare away the feeding birds and steals their food. 2+2 = 5 is an error, not a lie. Professional liars defend calculated lies as inadvertent errors. Animal experimentation in medicine is shrouded in secrecy and lies. A relationship in which lies are told loses intimacy. Torture produces lies, as does police coercion. That the truth shall prevail is the logic of naivety. Oxytocin stimulates self-serving lies. Eyes cannot conceal lies, “so eye contact reduces lies.” Pub Med. Will you tell a murderer the whereabouts of his intended victim? Kant would.

L. Ali Khan is the founder of Legal Scholar Academy and an Emeritus Professor of Law at the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. He welcomes comments at