Publication Title

Pacific Law Journal


deception, lies, salmon

Document Type



This paper will present a Puritan Model of the Law of Lies, which is a prominent (but by no means only) model observable in U.S. law. We will then turn to the underpinnings in evolutionary theory of deception and self-deception. We will next apply these concepts to the worlds of salmon law and policymaking, which are marked conspicuously by evidences of deceit. Some conclusions will be offered on how deceit and self-deception are addressed in the law. We will conclude with some distinctions between the laws of deception and self-deception.

For the most part, our deceptions are governed by the Puritan Model of the Law of Lies, which treats falsehood as something to be forbidden, penalized, condemned, and sanctioned. Given the universality of the phenomenon of the lie, the Puritan Model is beset by problems of enforcement and undergoes inevitable fissioning in distinguishing small lies from big ones or harmless fibs from damaging ones, but these are the traditional workings of law.

By contrast, there is no Puritan Model of the Law of Self-Deception, which occurs at the level of preference, of ideology, of belief, of dogma, of revealed truth, of truncated empiricism. At this level, deception is not forbidden by law. It becomes enshrined in the law. It is enacted, approved, and endorsed.

Thus, we come face-to-face with the ultimate irony: the little lies to others are felonies, the big lies to ourselves are policy.

[This paper was the basis for the Fourth Annual Archie Hefner Memorial Lecture given at McGeorge Law School in October, 1994.]



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