As we all know, politicians are often known for two things: lying and the inability to admit when they are wrong. If you want to see a prime example of both in one instance, look no further than this example from the chairperson of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (DWS).
Lying and the inability to admit fault are traits that are generally considered immoral, and are upsetting to the populace these people are elected to serve, but what’s the real reason behind it?
Let’s first discuss the lying which can be either malicious or altruistic.
I’ll give you examples:
- Malicious: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky ~ Bill Clinton
- Altruistic: No honey, that dress does not make you look fat ~ Every husband in history
An easy way to tell the difference is to understand who is being protected by the lie. If it’s the liar, then there’s a good chance it’s malicious.
So are all lies that roll off a politicians tongue malicious? Of course not. But, we all understand how malicious lies come about and agree they are wrong, so let’s focus on the altruistic ones instead.
What’s the one type of altruistic lie that’s good? Every time someone called the government because they saw a UFO and were told, “We’ll look into it” when in reality they knew it was the latest super-secret plane the government was testing and weren’t at liberty to discuss—I’m OK with that. The B-2 Stealth Bomber alone is estimated to be responsible for hundreds of reported UFO sightings before the curtain was lifted on it.
There is no way for the government to tell Americans their secrets without telling our enemies too. So some things simply must be kept out of the public knowledge base.
With politicians however, most of their altruistic lies are born out of arrogance. Many think voters can’t understand their superior knowledge or intellect well enough to support their ideas. So they lie to get elected, then proceed with their original agenda because “they know better.”
For instance, many on the left lie about the origins of their proposed social engineering policies, calling them anything but socialism, because they know people in America aren’t very fond of the socialist doctrine, even though these politicians honestly believe socialism can be good.
Many on the right lie about their intent to cut government assistance because they know telling people they intend on putting the kibosh to their government aid will be seen as cruel and heartless, when they truly believe it will help promote self-reliance and actually help those it’s expected to hurt.
I would argue that if these policies are good, they will stand on their merits. An intelligent person should be able to explain their position in such a way that reasonably smart people will understand. If socialism or capitalism are good, just make the best case as to why, and let us decide.
It’s hard to paint politicians as completely immoral here, they legitimately think they are doing what is best. But I find the hubris for them to assume they are more intelligent than me, the person they are nominated to serve, distinctly offensive.
Moving on from the lies, let’s discuss the inability to admit wrongdoing.
Although DWS has a degree in political science, not law, she does serve in Congress with a few hundred other law makers, many of whom do have a legal background; our president too.
I’m not attempting to disparage lawyers, it’s a noble profession. But it is common practice for them to vehemently avoid any admission of wrongdoing or offer any apology for a wrongful act. This practice has sadly become part of our fabric, and it affects all of us morally and financially.
In our current legal system, an apology is admissible evidence against you, so we have been conditioned to never admit wrong-doing. Lack of personal responsibility is everywhere these days, and I think it’s in no small part to our legal system’s exploitation of apologies.
As you saw DSW pirouette around the issue like she was on Dancing With The Stars (They do share the same initials after all), it became clear she knew she had lied, but was adamant about not admitting it.
What can we do about these two issues? While we will never be able to stop people from lying, we can do something about the admission of guilt issue by changing our current legal system.
If we look at health care, many doctors who know they erred when giving treatment will often refuse to give an apology at the insistence of their legal team, due to its evidential liability. Interestingly enough though, a 2001 University of Michigan program showed that while the liability may increase, the number of actual lawsuits decrease as patients are far more apt to accept an apology as restitution than most lawyers give them credit for.
This study shows that we humans care more about personal responsibility than money, and we are capable of forgiveness if it’s simply asked for. So, I have a simple proposal to make a meaningful reform to our legal system.
Introduce legislation that provides certain indemnities to a person when they accept fault. If a person admits their error, apologizes, and/or makes a sincere attempt at restitution prior to legal action being taken against them, (ruling out criminal activity), they should be immune from additional punitive damages in civil court over and above their actual fiscal liability for the damages inflicted.
This one simple change to our legal system could not only introduce a better moral code in our society by encouraging people to accept responsibility, but imagine the dramatic lowering in prices of goods and services, as insurance premiums and general business operating costs drop due to a lower or complete lack of settlement costs.
There you have it, I have improved our sense of morality and helped our economy with a few strokes of my keyboard, and that’s no lie!