George Santos, a Republican from New York who is being investigated for lying, is not the first candidate for office to be accused of lying, but many people act like he is. The question is if this kind of lying is morally wrong, even if it’s not against the law, and if so, why, and if there should be laws against it. For the sake of democracy, the First Amendment shouldn’t protect political lies. Instead, there should be consequences for them.
It should be wrong to lie. That’s what we were all taught. But where is the line between lying and getting people excited? Nearly half of all job resumes have at least one lie on them because people make up their work history and accomplishments to impress potential employers. Advertisers tell lies to get us to buy their products. Even when people are angry, lying seems to be okay in our society.
Candidates for office have lied a lot in American history, which is a shame. There are different kinds of lies. First, they have lied about facts about politics or policy, like the state of the economy, crime rates, or threats from foreign policy. Or, they make up stories about the past or positions of their opponents. Sometimes they lie about their resumes or about themselves.
It doesn’t look like all political lies are the same. People often tell the worst lies about themselves. They talk about a candidate’s character and whether or not they are fit for office. They are what most people use to decide who to vote for. We assume that honest people will run for office and that, if they win, we can trust their judgment on a variety of issues that most of us don’t know much about.
Still, all lies are bad for politics and, in the end, for democracy. American politics, including campaigns and elections, depends on people telling the truth in order to work well. Elections are contests in which candidates present themselves and their ideas so that voters can choose. The public judges the resumes and policy positions of those running for office based on what they do and say. Elections are marketplaces where people try to sell their ideas to voters.
When candidates lie, especially about themselves, this market doesn’t work. There are similarities to other places in society where people are expected and forced to tell the truth.
For example, the adversarial process in court only works because lawyers have to be honest when presenting evidence. A fair verdict can be reached by juries if they are shown evidence and given information they believe to be true. Jurors may have to decide how trustworthy witnesses are and sort out the facts, but they don’t have to ask at the end if the facts they were given are true.
The economic marketplace only works because people believe in honest business. Yes, some people might agree with the “let the buyer decide” philosophy. But most people think that cheating or lying to customers is wrong and that it messes up the market. We assume that all buyers and sellers will be honest and not lie or trick each other to get what they want. This is part of the reason why insider trading is wrong. The rules about intellectual property are also based on fair play and telling the truth.
In school, grades are a fair way to judge students’ abilities, but only if they don’t cheat. Teachers assume that students have done their own work and give grades based on that assumption. Because of this, there are rules against it. Character is what ties these three examples together. Courts, markets, and schools all depend on people being honest and able to trust each other.
Elections are a lot like the way things work in court, in the business world, and in schools. Candidates for office are like facts presented in court, products or goods for sale, or papers or exams turned in for grades. Voters can’t be asked to choose which policies and candidates they like and then be asked what is true at the same time. At some point, there must be a standard for what’s true and what’s not.
Truth and knowledge are what make democracy work. The main argument for a free press and free speech based on the First Amendment is that the public has a right to know the truth so that they can vote, make good decisions, and hold the government accountable. If you don’t assume that people are telling the truth, voters and democracy can’t do their jobs.
What George Santos is said to have done goes way beyond what other candidates have done. It looks like he lied about who he was and what he stood for. He may have given voters a false impression of himself. If that’s true, it was the worst kind of resume fraud, false advertising, and maybe even plagiarism all in one. During a time when Americans have heard many lies about stolen elections and other things, the public may finally be sick of hearing lies. We need to think again about how far politicians can lie.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court seems to think that lying is protected by the First Amendment, and this has made it easier for people to lie. The court threw out laws that tried to punish people who stole or made up military valor and state laws that tried to punish people who lied about politics.
It is hard to believe that the people who wrote the Constitution would have agreed with the idea of a “constitutional right to lie.” Instead of focusing on the person speaking, the law should protect the public’s and democracy’s right to hear the truth. Until we do that, more candidates and people in office will lie.
Leave your comments if you enjoyed reading this post. And remember to check back here Journalistpr.com. for updates on the news.