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What if Liars Had to Pay a Fine?

Jeff Hall

Posted on January 22, 2021 23:37

2 users

Everyone agrees spreading falsehoods is bad. Why not criminalize purposely spreading false information and impose penalties when people lie?

I know this is going to sound crazy and free speech purists will cringe a bit upon reading this.

But lying is bad. We were all taught that as little kids.

It's right there in the Bible: "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

If you falsify your tax returns, you can get into trouble.  If you lie on a job application, that's viewed as a legitimate reason to not hire you.

If we can all think of each other as basically honest, that facilitates communication, commerce -- everything, really. 

If we don't trust one another, we lose a lot.  If others lie, cheat and steal and get away with it, those who play by the rules become resentful. 

So why can citizens -- including even a president -- recklessly and knowingly spread falsehoods with impunity? 

Why is it media outlets can pass along these same lies, even though they know better? 

It's impossible to know at all times what's what. There's too much information these days. I find, in tracking the news, it's often what media doesn't report that's as important as what it does. 

Liberal outlets don't give Republicans credit for much of anything, even when they deserve it; the same is true in reverse: Conservative outlets have a hard time acknowledging when Democrats get it right.

Humans are flawed and we all make errors now and then when processing and passing along information. When we're wrong, we should admit it quickly, apologize, and try and do better next time.

But what if we made it a legal offense for someone to knowingly tell a lie -- or to knowingly pass along a lie? 

Maybe this is illegal already, but obviously this doesn't get enforced much.  There could be a $50 fine for a white lie; $100 for a serious lie; $500 for a lie that clearly harms another or that can create a dangerous situation. 

There could be a court system set up to process claims -- kind of like Traffic Court.  Then there could be some accountability. Citizens could file the claims.

Maybe big-time liars who benefit from their whoppers would find these fines too paltry to care about. But, over time, these fines could add up. Media and social media companies would suddenly become highly exposed.

Plus there would be the social stigma associated with being known as a serial (and certifiable) liar (although some wouldn't care). 

We wouldn't want this system to be abused.  Falsely accusing someone else of lying would result in a fine for the accuser.

I know, I know.  This will never happen. 

Administering such a system would be nightmarish.  "Truth" is very hard to define, there is so much subjectivity. 

People look at the same set of facts and draw different conclusions (although it's hard not to conclude some ignore the truth and purposely twist their interpretations). 

Once again, it gets back to intent.  Lying on purpose is bad. 

If this idea is dumb, can anyone come up with a better alternative?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Hall

Posted on January 22, 2021 23:37

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Source: Politico
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