Last updated on 8th June 2018
The small extract below is from Chapter 5, 'The Easy Lie' of former USA FBI director James Comey's book, 'A Higher Loyalty', 'Truth, Lies, and Leadership':
There was once a time when most people worried about going to hell if they violated an oath taken in the name of God. That divine deterrence has slipped away from our modern cultures. In its place, people must fear going to jail. They must fear their lives being turned upside down. They must fear their pictures splashed on newspapers and websites. People must fear having their name forever associated with a criminal act if we are to have a nation with a rule of law. Martha Stewart lied, blatantly, in the justice system. To protect the institution of justice, and reinforce a culture of truth-telling, she had to be prosecuted. I am very confident that, should the circumstance arise, Martha Stewart would not lie to federal investigators again. Unfortunately, many others who crossed my path would continue to commit the same foolish act.
--- end extract from James Comey book ---
Ravi: My first reaction on reading the above was that it matched my views based on what I experienced about power-craze madness in a spiritual ashram system and associated town, after its founder died (gave up the physical body). Lying by some people in the ashram system became common in the immediate months and years following the passing away of the spiritual ashram founder. That resulted in a profound lack of trust in the ashram system and associated town, which led to some chaos, confusion and trauma.
When the ashram system founder was alive, everybody including top administrators of the ashram system and associated town ***feared*** the wrath of the founder if they lied to him or did something really bad. That kept the system in some level of order.
After he passed away, that fear vanished! And so there was a significant level of anarchy in the ashram system which resulted in significant negative impact to the ashram system as well as associated town. But this anarchy was not at the level of physical violence, barring unconfirmed reports of a few slaps here and there.
Eventually, in my considered opinion, over the course of the next few years, it was fear of the government top ministers and the regulatory bodies these ministers headed, and the police and courts of law, that slowly and steadily brought order to the ashram system and associated town.
Based on this experience, I now have a deeply-held view that fear of significant punishment for doing bad including fear of significant punishment for lying to figures of authority, is necessary for order in a community, and that without such fear, the possibility of anarchy (chaos, confusion and trauma) in the community is high.
So I tend to agree with James Comey's view as expressed above.
However, some persons have been critical of this view of James Comey. Given below are a couple of such article links:
A correspondent wrote (and was OK with public sharing): My impression is that there are societies where moral behavior is not based on fear, and they tend to have less crime than fear-based societies.
I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited): Very interesting, hopeful and optimistic response. Nice to know that you have such an impression.
Another correspondent wrote (and was OK with public sharing): It should be normal practice to tell the truth, not just fear of retribution. You may wish to keep quiet (not say anything) in some circumstances: e.g. to avoid telling a very sick person about their condition, or to avoid discouraging someone, especially a child. It may also be necessary to not say something to avoid incriminating oneself (in the US, by invoking the First Amendment, I think).
Politicians follow a different code: they usually say what they can get away with at that time. We take what they say with that understanding -- we do not hold them to the kind of standard we should expect of everyone else.
I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited): Interesting comment.
[I thank James Comey and have presumed that he will not have any objections to me sharing the above short quotes from his book on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever. Note that Indian fair dealing law (and USA fair use law too, I guess) allows small quotes from copyrighted books to be used in reviews and commentary articles like this one.]