The Secret Power of Political Myths

The spirit of Manifest Destiny leading America ever-onward
The spirit of Manifest Destiny leading America ever-onward

Rome was founded by twin boys named Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf. Germans were descended from demigods who had once inhabited Atlantis before it sadly sank beneath the waves. The emperor of Japan is a direct descendant of Ameratsu, the sun goddess. The population of Britain is actually made up of the ten lost tribes of Israel and members of the royal family are direct descendants of King David.

“What silliness,” rational types will exclaim. These fairy tales should be ignored by intelligent, enlightened people such as us. And ignore them policy-makers do, much to their own peril, because these stories operate powerfully in the underground chambers of our minds. Even the most rational, calculating types at the Chicago School of Economics have a myth: the Invisible Hand guides mankind to prosperity if only we mortals give it free reign. To try to rein in the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is a sin punishable by the curse of low living standards, falling profits and enslavement by the devil (played by the government in this drama.)

The Chicago School of Economics, unaware that their magic numbers are a throwback to that cult leader Pythagorus and the Caballah, continue to fill blackboards and student’s heads with these dogmas. That they don’t work is no hindrance-as soon as we repent of blasphemous usurpation of the Free Market they will work, dang it.

Self-Awareness is half the battle. We need to lift the lid on these myths, upon which all people and nations operate. Not that they can be dispelled. Should they be dispelled, new myths will arise. I see no evidence that human beings can live without stories. But do these stories really affect actions on the ground? Only always.

For example, take this excerpt from Israel Shahak’s Jewish History:

In 1956 I eagerly swallowed all of Ben-Gurion’s political and military reasons for Israel initiating the Suez War, until he (in spite of being an atheist, proud of his disregard of the commandments of Jewish religion) pronounced in the Knesset on the third day of that war, that the real reason for it is ‘the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon’ to its Biblical borders.

At this point in his speech, almost every Knesset member spontaneously rose and sang the Israeli national anthem. To my knowledge, no zionist politician has ever repudiated Ben-Gurion’s idea that Israeli policies must be based (within the limits of pragmatic considerations) on the restoration of the Biblical borders as the borders of the Jewish state.

We ignore the background story at our own peril. Rational types who disdain these stories simply have their own story: Human beings are rational and predictably act in their own self-interest. Good luck with that one.



  1. I very much enjoyed your destruction of the free market myth. I liked it so much I quoted it on my blog, Pilant’s Business Ethics. I plan to visit again. Keep up the wonderful writing. jp

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