Legalize lying

Modern society has made itself so legalistic and granular that often it cannot see the forest for the trees. It specializes in deconstruction, or separating details from the bigger picture, much like our machines chew up forests and spit out paper, on which we then write miles of law.

Among our many subterfuges is the idea that we do not need a government we can trust, or leaders we can trust. Instead, we write many laws to limit their powers, and hope that they do not in the many hours they are in office find a way of working around our little rules.

Goedelian confusion aside, this leads to a certain number of sacred cows. Privacy. Miranda rights. Freedom of speech. The right to a lawyer or lobbyist, depending on the circumstances. These “rights” make us stop striving for a trustworthy government, and instead distract ourselves with irrelevancies.

At the center of the case is Xavier Alvarez, a former California county water board member who is an undisputed liar. Among his lies is that he played professional hockey, served in the Marines and rescued the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis. None of those lies was illegal.

But when he claimed to have won the “Congressional Medal of Honor,” that lie was a violation of the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to make false claims about receiving military medals.

Alvarez appealed his conviction and won…The government appealed to the Supreme Court, where Solicitor General Donald Verrilli…soon faced a barrage of questions about when Congress can make it a crime to tell a lie that does not defraud or defame.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg broadened the question further. Could Congress criminalize other false statements, such as denying that the Holocaust occurred? – “Is A Lie Just Free Speech, Or Is It A Crime?” by Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio, February 22, 2012

We never consider that freedom of speech can be a bad thing, because to say that is to say the ultimate blasphemy. It will make you unpopular and feared. Yet it’s unclear what freedom of speech means, and why any society would want to legalize lying.

This shows us the flipside of all politics. Any law we make is not in a vacuum; it has consequences outside of what it specifically does. There is also the question of what will be missing because of these consequences, both because we will not pursue some options and because we get distracted from others.

It is popular to claim that our view that lying should be legalized is somehow “more adult.” Only a child would say that making lying legal is a bad idea, we think. We know how much more complex it is than that. But is it?

If lying were illegal, we would put liars in jail, and people would be careful about what they said.

Detractors claim that this law would then be used to put people in jail for unpopular speech. But we do that already. If they don’t have money and a lot of supporters, they rot in jail and we the society glide right over their dead case files.

Even more, this brings us back to the same problem: if we are making laws because we are afraid of scumbags in government, why not simply go after the real problem, which is scumbags in government?

Further, we have to look at the consequences of legalizing lying. First lying becomes legal. This encourages others to lie. Then to avoid constant conflict this encourages sane people to stop pointing out the lies. Soon the average child or citizen hears 10 lies for every one truth.

Soon we will have people coming to scientists with big bundles of cash, encouraging them to disprove the idea that any idea is more truthful than others. At that point, we will never be able to agree on anything, because it’s all fantasy. Monopoly money and toy soldiers.

What is free speech? As the Founders intended it, the ability to formulate political opinions and publish them without being thrown into jail. That is all they intended.

In our modern deconstructive mode, we have separated their words from their meaning, and used them instead to create a permissive environment. We do this so we do not get shamed for our lies, delusions and half-truths.

It is a sign of sickness to fear reality and fear discovery in this way. But we are too clever for that. We have invented our rights to protect us, while they instead usher us closer to collapse.

28 Comments

  1. Esotericist says:

    I can’t agree with this article. If you make lying illegal, any unpopular speech will immediately be branded a lie and the speaker arrested.

    We cannot trust other human beings. We are a government of laws, not men.

    1. Ultimately it’s not laws which holds a country together as well as the views upon virtues and morality of a society. Modern constitutionism is the collective pretension that laws suffice to establish a society (consequences) while temporarily thinking the causes away (stance in life on virtue and morality). As Aristotle explained; common codes on acceptable behaviour are passed down orally and behaviourally from father to son, and only later do tribes and communities codify their laws.

      Next to that, Plato pointed out that good people require no laws to do the good thing, whereas bad persons always find ways around the laws to work their evil. Ordinary citizens who normally obey the law and once step out of bound, can’t afford the expensive lawyers that professional criminals can – lawyers who toil day and night to find a legal loophole. So if the judges only consider the legal aspect of the case and not the mindset of the persons involved, injustice will increase.

      Bottom line – the law is always predated by a morality; if it would be okay for liars and scumbags to roam the earth since it is only explicitly defined behaviours that the law condemns, the judges themselves could be scumbags and this will no doubt influence the interpretation of the laws. Same could be said for the makers of the law. Once lying becomes okay we will have even worse politicians which will result in us being governed by laws that are even worse. One can’t seperate causes from consequences.

      If this topic interests you, I propose you study the following article:

      http://www.amerika.org/politics/citizens-of-the-world/

      1. A. Realist says:

        “Freedom of speech” as the Americans conceived it came about when the only people active in politics were large landowners with independent farms. They were rich. They did not have to care, as the modern cube serf does, about the consequences of their speech. Their only concern was that a king would put them to death for being dissenters.

        The point is that it was a very specific ban, not a catch-all for “say anything” and get away with it.

        I think you are right here in that without culture there is no unity and no purpose and laws can’t fix that.

        In my life I have seen laws “fix” very little. If anything they just get a third party involved, the government, in the form of whatever incompetents they’ve hired today.

        I feel like other than the part of my taxes which go to the military, I could pretty much pile the money in the back yard and set it on fire for all the good it would do. In fact burning it would keep it out the hands of dangerous government morons.

        The point is that without culture, and a unity between the people and their ideals, there is nothing but the police state. That is not necessarily a totalitarian police state, but a state where the police try to keep the herd in line nonetheless.

        If you want to know why the West is dying, its reliance on laws must be a big part of the failure. Laws just hold back good people. Bad people break them without a second thought.

      2. Esotericist says:

        Even if you’ve got a common theory to your society, who’s watching to make sure abuses don’t happen?

      3. Ted Swanson says:

        Unofficial is always better than official.

        The ideal situation is clearly to have few, basic, official laws and everything else should be sorted out by families.

        1. A. Realist says:

          I think even social institutions fail. I prefer church charity to welfare, since it tends to reward those who are not insane and can help themselves, even if only to a small degree. I definitely prefer more “organic” community activity like holidays, ceremonies, wise elders and church ladies to our modern equivalent of the social worker and the official commendation day. I would even prefer the ability of local communities to drive off bad citizens, to the towering and expensive manifestation that is law enforcement and our court system.

          It seems as if all of this government activity is designed *for* the idiots and criminals, not *to* protect the good people from such idiots.

    2. A. Realist says:

      We are a government of both laws and men. Men interpret the laws and apply them. If the men are bad, the laws aren’t going to save us from them.

      The peculiarly American insistence on free speech has always struck me as totally illogical. What use is free speech if your boss can fire you for it, or people are going to attack you in the street? The problem is intolerance of any speech that isn’t popular and government can’t fix that.

  2. Nicholas Marville says:

    The Xavier Alvaraz guy mentioned in the article seems like one of those people who approach you when you’re drinking a tea somewhere and starts up a chat, and suddenly begins to talk about how he is manager of this and that, how he has bought a brand new house, then commences to talk about the mortgage on the house, and afterwards about his girlfriend. And all this time listening you have the feeling that this guy is bragging about himself and making up stories just to seem cool, amiable and impressive. While in reality – men of the world such as myself know intuitively – this is one of the guys who can only work in short term bursts of enthusiasm yet never gets anything done on the long run. If he had a job he would probably be fired for not being on time, for lingering too long in the donut shop while on his way there, or his lunch break would take too long because he kept trying to obtain the phone number of some girl, and other trivialities like those. Yep, world is full of such people, and the less legal protection they have, the better.

  3. crow says:

    You might as well legalize yawning, too, while you’re at it. Or deem it illegal, for all the difference it would make to the way people are.
    Revering ‘God’ was really the only thing that made people reluctant to lie, and now that such orientation is shunned and ridiculed, nothing remains to prevent honesty becoming extinct.

    I don’t lie. Not ever. About anything. But that’s an anomaly. I decided it was really not in my interests, to lie, and simply stopped doing it. Thus I gained a baseline from which to operate, and one which was constant. I gained a knowledge of who I was, and that was something I needed.
    But people lie, and lie often. From top to bottom, our society is riddled with it. And that alone, I imagine, probably renders it unworkable.

    1. Esotericist says:

      Once one party starts lying, the rest of us might as well do it to or we’re at a disadvantage.

      1. crow says:

        NO!!!
        That is a fallacy, accepted by all, that ruins any chance for recovery.
        I have tested this. Honesty is never a disadvantage, however much it may seem to be, in theory.
        If your own behaviour is as despicable as the despicable, what difference is there between you?

      2. Ted Swanson says:

        You have to look at it in the long term. Liars are eventually undone. The last man standing wins.

        1. crow says:

          Is it about ‘winning’?
          My aim is purely to survive.
          Survival is my duty, but I don’t consider that winning is.
          But, of course, liars are always undone. They undo themselves, most of all.

          1. Ted Swanson says:

            I suppose it is a figure of speech. To be the last man standing is to survive.

            Yes, liars are undone…in the end. A liar might get away with a lie here and there, but they undo themselves, ultimately.

    2. A. Realist says:

      You’re looking at this on a much longer-term scale. People who lie generally do it for short-term gain and then it does put everyone else at a disadvantage, so they follow the anti-leader.

  4. Oznoto says:

    Why stop with lying, let’s legalize theft as well. I mean, everybody does it anyway, don’t they. And why not if you can get away with it.

    Four nights ago I was in my neighborhood store just before midnight to buy beer. I saw a filthy homeless man covered with sores carrying a bedroll, steal two bottles of wine. So I let the shoplifter know that he had been caught. He didn’t care, he just cursed me and laughed.

    So when paying for my goods, I told the cashier (an effeminate queer) about the boosted wine in the homeless cretin’s bedroll, but he responded by saying there was nothing he could do, that it was against corporate policy to confront shoplifters. Whoa nelly? I have to pay for my beer, but he can steal his wine.

    When I was twelve (1962), I got a lesson on shoplifting from a reasonable store owner who backhanded me across the room. The lesson took, and I’m now glad for it, but if that were to happen now, the twelve year old thief could sue the store owner’s pants off. Damn shame.

  5. crow says:

    You don’t gauge your own behaviour by comparing it to the behaviour of others, do you? Do you?
    You hold yourself to a certain moral standard, because you can’t do otherwise, don’t you?
    Maybe I am even more weird than I thought. Am I the only one?
    I do what I do because I am certain it is right.
    And because, in spite of the seeming disadvantage it confers, it actually confers an advantage.
    It works.
    Morals are important, to attaining a life that actually works.
    I am almost alone, where I live, in not taking anti-depressants. I never get depressed. Why? Because I have rendered myself completely sane. And a big part of that is through developing an unchanging baseline of behaviour and conviction. You want to be sane? Behave in a sane way!
    It may look crazy to the crazies, but does it work?
    My way works.
    And that, alone, would be reason enough.
    People often seem to think that morals are things you act-out to impress others. But they are not. They are a master key, to unlocking your own life.

    1. Ted Swanson says:

      If you don’t hold yourself to your own standard, then you have no anchor. Then it’s a domino effect and we all fall. When you stem the tide, you become a leader. And who can honestly say they don’t want to be a leader?

      1. crow says:

        Me. I have zero-wish to be a leader.
        But this was not always so!

      2. ferret says:

        It’s better to have power over the leader while remaining in shadow.

        1. crow says:

          Better still, to be nothing other than a shadow.
          Power? What is that, anyway? The only power worth having is the kind that remains when chasing after it is abandoned.

          1. ferret says:

            “The only power worth having is the kind that remains when chasing after it is abandoned.”

            That’s why a right ideology is the must. In this case power is needed for transitional period; after that the system should become self-sustaining for a long period of time.

            Any attempt to make a change without having a new ideology is doomed (Luddites’ movement, different riots and strikes demanding economical improvements – they all fail).

            Saving an old ideology in a police state is a perversion. It will eventually fail.

            One can be in shadow while developing a new ideology. This is a real power though not perceived as such.

            1. crow says:

              Ah. This is my kind of outlook :)

  6. Steve says:

    Yes.

    I think part of the problem lies in what is promoted by the educational system, “the deconstructive mode,” as Brett puts it. They’re adamant in telling us kids that any moral code is a ‘purely subjective construct’ [pretentious sneer], and that any opinion is therefore valid, as long as it doesn’t interfere with another’s opinion. Effectively, this demoralizes, because anyone who attempts to build
    their own set of values faces an onslaught of childishness which screams: ‘That’s just, like, your opinion!”

    My generation does not like strength.

    …At least that’s MY experience.

    What I’m wondering is how this attitude is connected to the scientific method, which takes a deconstructive approach to physical reality. When you deconstruct physical reality, a molecule, let’s say, you get an inarguable result — the molecule’s constituent matter. But when you take this same approach and deconstruct the deluded individual who forgets that they are part of physical reality, you do not get an inarguable result. You get a whole lot of squirming.

    1. Steve says:

      Note: The above was meant to be a response to crow at 11:03

      1. crow says:

        Crow not understand this.
        Crow not clever, like human.
        Crow clever, like crow.

  7. [...] Stevens of Amerika.org makes an interesting observation regarding the dishonest, hateful nature of the modern governmental super-state. He points out the painfully obvious below. Modern society [...]

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