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Lydia Fisher

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What Is Truth?

Posted: 07/11/11 11:30 AM ET

Last week's headlines put me in a reflective mode. It got me thinking about truth.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness."

Well, falsehood creates a convoluted mess, a sense of disorder. Hold that thought, and while you do, think "cause and effect" -- the financial crisis largely created our fiscal crisis leading now to the US national debt ceiling problem.

If I were to ask what truth is, answers would likely range from subjective relativism -- along the lines of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"-- all the way to the objective, rooted in an ideal. Truth is commonly defined as that which is verifiable by fact or reality. OK, but people perceive reality differently. They can even fudge facts to make something look true when it's not (falsehood posing as truth, like those AAA-rated "liar" loan-filled mortgage securities). So, then, how many truths would be out there?

Which brings me to the words some of us memorized in grade school, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." -- embedded here, are the rights that come to us by natural law. Here we see truth, rooted in an ideal. Why is it relevant? History shows us what happens when man (and I use this generically) inserts himself in a way so as to dictate rights (that are by nature ours), as the one who arbitrarily determines who gets what. Without that higher purpose connection, it's more likely that human nature veers towards a tunnel vision, driven by an "it's about me" mind-set.

I'm thinking, that if we don't know what truth is, we don't know it, but it's there -- always there for discovery.

Now back to those headlines that got me thinking. The News of the World phone hacking scandal erupted. Then, the headline about the 14th Amendment and the debt ceiling. Then this. "Illinois could cut burials for the poor..."

Cuts will be felt most deeply by the vulnerable, the needy, which brings me to the national debt ceiling debate. Are we really addressing the heart of the problem?

Neil Barofsky (Former Special Inspector General for TARP) gets to the heart of what needs to be an essential part of the national debt ceiling debate. He points out that the fiscal crisis and the "Too Big To Fails" are interlinked. "Too Big To Fail" status carries an implicit government guarantee which, if things were to go wrong, may result in yet another taxpayer funded bailout.

From Neil Barofsky's Huffington Post blog "Lessons From the Crisis."

...the up-front fiscal costs associated with bailing out financial institutions in the next financial crisis could total up to one-third of the nation's GDP -- $5 trillion. An amount even remotely close to this estimate would eclipse the total dollar figures at issue in the proposed fiscal reforms that are the subject of such intense debate today.

Take this to heart.

Otherwise, even if the two political parties somehow build a bridge to span their differences and reach a fiscal compromise, that bridge could be washed away by the flash flood of red ink required to bail out the banks yet again.

A structural problem within the financial system continues to exist. As does "big money" capturing the political system.

Read on.

If you do not punish crimes, there's really no reason they won't happen again," said Mary Ramirez, a professor at Washburn University School of Law and a former assistant United States attorney. "I worry and so do a lot of economists that we have created no disincentives for committing fraud or white-collar crime, in particular in the financial space.

What do you think Leonardo would say about all this -- your thoughts?