Hypocrisy and Democratic Leadership in Benjamin Franklin’s Political Thought
Political Science Reviewer, Volume 42.2
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Benjamin Franklin
democratic virtue

How to Cite

Hypocrisy and Democratic Leadership in Benjamin Franklin’s Political Thought. (2020). The Political Science Reviewer, 44(2), 479-508. https://politicalsciencereviewer.wisc.edu/index.php/psr/article/view/654


Democratic citizens often relish exposing dishonest politicians, especially those who preach one thing but do another. However, insincere expressions and even hypocrisy can support democratic politics by allowing political actors the flexibility to choose between competing policy goals through bargaining and consensus-building. One of America’s most celebrated authors on effective leadership techniques, Benjamin Franklin, defended the necessity of occasional hypocrisy to good democratic governance. Franklin’s Autobiography provides a guide to the art of influence. He sees a role for the tactful use of hypocrisy and accepts the usefulness of willful slights of truth when used in the service of promoting civic projects. Though the current political era is characterized by political polarization and distrust, Franklin’s approach suggests that hypocrisy can be used as a political tool of democratic leadership to facilitate compromise and bridge ideological divides.

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