What if most of the major intellectual paradigms of our age began with a lie? What then?

Freudianism, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson argued convincingly, began with a lie, when Freud abandoned the “seduction” (rape) theory of neurosis for his cockamamie Oedipus Complex. The professional world of 19th century academics and doctors could not accept his reports that rape and sexual molestation and incest were quite common in their beloved Austro-Hungarian Empire. So Freud cooked up the fantasy theory of repressed lust on the part of children for their parents. It was a hit!

Keynesianism, W.H. Hutt insisted, was a lie at base. The young Bloomsbury Group economist confronted a fairly easy economic problem, the post-war depression caused by (a) going back to the gold standard at parity while (b) following union demands to prop up nominal wage rates artificially. Was any economist confused? Really? This was elementary stuff. But there was a political impasse: the politicians could not afford (they thought) union backlash if wage rates were allowed to collapse to equilibrating levels. So Keynes cooked up a bald-faced lie: naturally occuring market-based “sticky wages.” Economics and politics since then have been warped by this one evasion, the inability to confront union “pigs” (as the Fabian pol Sidney Webb called them — privately).

Charles Darwin even accepted something as bedrock to his point of view, and it was obviously incorrect even then: uniformitarianism. I do not think this was as deadly for his theory, but it is worth acknowledging.

In my opinion, Marxian thought also rested on a set of Grand Evasions. Karl Marx based everything he did on a denial of the productivity of exchange, the Condillac-de Tracy notion of mutual benefit in trades. Marx compounded this by taking Adam Smith’s labor theory of cost, and a simplistic reading of Ricardo’s Labor Theory of Value, and concocted a defense of communism — and the attendant destruction of private property and cooperation via trade — based on a glaring evasion and an idiotically dunderheaded mistake that he ended up unable to “close,” as Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk put it.

So what other major paradigms are based on actual lies, or whopping evasions?