The Instigator
larztheloser
Pro (for)
Losing
20 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
29 Points

That it should be a criminal offence for a politician to lie

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/7/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,280 times Debate No: 13090
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (9)

 

larztheloser

Pro

Greetings budding opponents! My case today is simple - that a politician (local or national, being a minister of the state) in a democratic country should not be allowed to lie (tell deliberate mistruths) in public (in a situation where privacy could not reasonably be expected) and not face punishment. Appropriate punishment in most contexts I would perceive as being by-elections, though I don't think that's very important to the debate.

As to the format, I'd like to do a slight variant of the Australia–Asia debating format. No cross-examination or anything silly like that, just three substantive speeches (with rebuttal) in rounds 1, 2 and 3. Round 4 will be the so-called "leader's reply", where both teams sum up their case but are not allowed to introduce new material/rebuttal. To simulate the very limited time usually allowed for the leader's reply, both my opponent and I may only write 10 sentences or less in that round. If anyone has any other questions they should feel free to ask them in the comments section!

With all these technicalities out of the way, allow me to begin my case by describing my model. Politicians are the greatest liars on the planet. A quick Google search for "examples of politicians lying" yields about 6,180,000 results [1] - that's about 32,000 for every country in the world. And that would be fine if they were any other profession. But we have a problem here. Voters listen to politicians. Based on a politician's statements and general impression of integrity, they decide whether or not to vote for him/her. Being elected on the basis of a lie puts the politician in a position of considerable power, which they use and abuse. The lie gets found out. However, voters need to wait until the next election period until they can do something about it. Therefore, I provide the solution, that being the ability to impose punishment on intentionally lying politicians in the aforementioned manner. I'm not criminalizing campaign promises made in good faith - I'm criminalizing deliberate acts of deceit used to gain access to the most powerful positions on the planet. This solves the problem because it acts as a disincentive for politicians to lie, and because it actually does remove those politicians from office.

In this first speech I'll offer two main points of constructive justification for said model and two minor points. My second speech will feature two more, plus some rebuttal. My third speech will be composed of entirely rebuttal and response to my opponent's criticism of my points. So now, on to my first four justifications.

Firstly, lying is immoral. I challenge my opponent to name me one religion that endorses lying. Lying has always been seen by mankind as a negative thing. This is because it undermines one's trust in society[3]. My argument here is essentially that it is wrong for society to trust in one when one does not return that trust, because that in and of itself demonstrates one would not be a particularly benevolent ruler to the people. Further, society generally expects politicians to hold to a higher moral code than your average Joe, because the decisions they make are that much more important for the country. Indeed, some speculate that we expect "moral perfection" from our politicians. From a moral standpoint, politicians should not have any right to lie.

Secondly, it enables transparency and greater faith in a nation's government. One must merely look at the example of Joseph Stalin, "a man who lied so much that he forgot what truth really was"[2]. When politicians lie, people are unable to distinguish between fact and fiction in government because there is often no mechanism for finding out the truth. This has two effects. First, when people are unable to distinguish truth and untruth, it becomes impossible to have transparency in the government. Transparency is a good thing because it prevents totalitarian regimes from forming. Second, if a lie is ever found out (as they are all the time, judging by source #1), people lose faith in their government. This is bad because it means people are working for a regime that they do not support - something the people are rarely happy about!

Thirdly (first of the minor points), lying is already censored in a wide range of less important areas. For instance, many countries forbid firms from decieving customers for profit[2]. Surely a few dollars in one's pocket are much less important than the fate of an entire nation? Therefore it is hypocritical to apply one rule to corporations and another to government. Politicians, after all, face much more important decisions and thus need to be held to a higher standard of accountability.

Finally, the principle of democracy is at odds with the lies of politicians. Democracy assumes that voters are able to make informed decisions, so as to help out the majority of voters. However, while politicians lie, how can a voter make an informed decision? Either democracy falls or politicians should not lie.

I'm proud to say that I don't support a system wherein politicians are not held accountable for arguably their most important actions. I'm proud to uphold the principles of democracy, transparency and morality within society. I'm proud not to be a hypocrite when it comes to selecting my politicians. I'm proud to propose! Won't you stand with me?

Sources
1 - http://www.google.co.nz...
2 - http://www.cuivienen.org...
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
4 - http://www.perkel.com...
RoyLatham

Con

My opponent is new to ddo, and I welcome him to the site. According to his profile, he has the greatest disagreement with me the ddo issues of anyone on the site, at least that I can recall. That's good, because it shows potential for debates.

Pro did not define "politician" or "lie." According to the dictionary, a politician is "a person who holds a political office." http://dictionary.reference.com... Since Pro mentioned the lies of candidates, I think he means "a person who holds or seeks political office," so I'll assume that definition. A lie is "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood." http://dictionary.reference.com...

1. Lies are usually immoral, but not always. In everyday life, a small lie told as flattery is accepted as moral by most. That would be something along the lines of, "I like that plan," when you really mean, "I'd rather so something different, but it isn't important enough to start an argument about it, so I'll just go along." There are parallels to that on the diplomatic front, both internationally and in domestic politics. There are also strategic lies that are justified. During World War II, the Allies leaked false information that an in would take place in Belgium, rather than Normandy where it actually occurred. Saying nothing would have avoided the lie, but the misdirection worked ad was clearly justified.

I grant that most of the lies that politicians tell are not justified, but Pro makes no distinction between justified lies and unjustified lies. Thus under Pro's resolution, Churchill could have been convicted of a crime for lying to the Nazis.

2. Most lies are impossible to prove. To prove that a politician lied, one must prove that he had a deliberate intent to deceive, not merely that he did not live up to his promises. The politician can always argue, "When I got into office a learned new information that caused me to change my mind about the subject. What I said during the campaign was an accurate expression of my feelings and intent at the time, but based on information I have now, I have changed my mind. There was no intent to deceive." Another variation is, "I said that I never saw document x, but it has since been shown that I had initialed the document. I had no recollection of having seen or initialed the document, so there was no intent to deceive. I have to approve thousands of documents, so it is essential that I rely upon staff to review them."

About the only way to prove a lie beyond reasonable doubt is if the politician confides to someone, "I will have to lie about that." Even in those circumstances, there better be multiple witnesses or a recording to prove the politician said it. That was the case with Churchill lying to the Nazis. It was an agreed-upon deception.

During the recent US presidential campaign, candidate Obama pledged he would govern by bipartisan consensus, and in particular that he would never use the reconciliation process, a parliamentary maneuver in Congress that avoids bipartisanship. Subsequently, he was elected and used the reconciliation process to pass legislation he wanted without a single vote from the Republicans. It was within his power to keep his promise by vetoing the legislation, or by threatening a veto of anything not having bipartisan support. So, could Obama be convicted of lying? No, he would simply say, "I was sincere at the time. I pledged bipartisanship, but I subsequently learned how nasty the opposition was, so I changed my mind." The intent to deceive could not be proved.

Consequently, very little lying would be prevented by Pro's resolution, because it is almost always impossible to prove.

Pro made an error in his Google search. Doing it the way he did, he got six million hits, but that includes getting just some of the words in a document, but not necessarily all of them adjacent and in the right order. If the search is done with quotes around the phrase, the result is ten hits. I'm not claiming that politicians rarely lie, but what I'm claiming it is so hard to prove there are few actionable examples.

3. While lying is nearly impossible to prove, there are no serious obstacles to pressing charges of lying. Consider a few lines from President Obama's recent Iraq speech, ""We have spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits," ... The troops in Iraq "have met every test that they faced," Obama said. "Now, it is our turn. Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for -- the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it".

Obama knows that it really isn't a trillion dollars, it is closer to $900 billion. It was not often financed by overseas borrowing, it was usually by having the Treasury print money. The troops in Iraq met most of the tests they faced, but Obama knows they did not meet every one of them. Obama knows there is no responsibility to honor troops because the Constitution allows free speech, and people may choose not to honor them. So in just a few sentences, there are grounds for filing four separate criminal charges. Would any of the charges result in convictions? Possibly, if the venue were chosen carefully, but I doubt it. However, the President would have to answer each charge in court proceedings. Opponents of the President could tie his Administration in knots defending countless accusations.

We have a recent similar situation demonstrating how this works. In Alaska, any citizen can file charges of an ethics violation against the governor. Opponents of Sarah Palin, when Palin was governor, filed more than twenty such charges. Most of them are attributed to one blogger. This caused Palin to run up about $500,000 in legal fees defending herself. All of the charges were bogus, and were eventually dismissed. Perhaps if a person does not like Palin, they might think it was a great strategy, but they have to understand that the strategy of unending attack can and would be used against anyone if the resolution were adopted.

4. It would not take long for politicians to figure out that they ought to say nothing. Instead, they would have to let surrogates speak in their stead. What would have to happen is that a non-politician, someone not in public office or seeking public office would have to speak on the issues. Moreover, the speaker could not quote the politician directly, but would have to say things like, "I'm just speaking for myself, but I'm under the impression that that the President thinks that the troops ought to be honored..." Maybe the spokesman is lying and he really is directly quoting the President, but that's okay. Not being a politician, the spokesman is not accountable under the law for lying.

I call this "sock puppet government." The politician never says anything, but his sock puppet does.

In some monarchies, there is upon occasion something similar to what Pro recommends. "A speech from the throne (or throne speech) is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign (or a representative) reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming session." http://en.wikipedia.org...

The disadvantages of this are that there no less lying, and it gives politicians a screen to hide behind. The current sock puppet can say that the last sock puppet had totally misinterpreted the politician.

Aware of the problem of frivolous attacks crippling an Administration, the U.S. Constitution provides that the President cannot be charged of a crime except by impeachment. The resolution undoes that. It would be a disaster.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
larztheloser

Pro

I'd like to return my opponent's warm welcome to this site by rebutting his five arguments, propping up my own four, and adding two more (in that order).

Rebuttal:

1) My opponent suggests that proving lying is impossible. It's not. Does not everyone in the world remember the lie of Clinton? Regardless, even if it were true that it is difficult to prove a lie (which I don't admit and seems very counter-intuitive), my opponent would have contradicted his own point #3 below, because you can't sue without any evidence. I dispute that though. A proper judicial inquiry can and will find out these liars.

My opponent asserts the excuse of "Oh, I just didn't have enough information at the time." Neither do the voters! That's who this debate is about. Yes, there is imperfect information. But if the former government lies about the state of the nation, then it is they, not the incumbent government, who are liable. If the incumbents are silly enough not to cover their bases and say that they will act on the basis of advice given to them by the relevant government departments in all instances, then they are lying and their excuse fails.

2) My opponent asks whether Obama's troop morale boosters are considered illegal if they have some hyperboles. I think most judges would be able to tell that the intent here would be to boost morale, not exaggerate the cost of war. Unless, of course, the prosecution can show that people believed that they are the actual figures, and acted on this belief. In that case the lie would have had a considerable negative impact on the country, and then Obama should be liable.

3) What if lots of people were to sue politicians for lying? I have four responses to this. First, even if lots of them do, at the very least politicians would be held more accountable by the judiciary. Second, where's your source for the cost to Sarah Palin? Why does omniscient Wikipedia know nothing about it? She must have hired a ridiculously costly lawyer. Third, people generally won't bother. Why? Because just as politicians have lives to get on with, so do ordinary people. If it cost Sarah $500,000 to defend herself against such clearly fallacious charges, imagine what it would have cost the prosecutor[s]. Finally, how is an ethics violation comparable to lying? It's not! You are arguing two unrelated charges as if they were alike!

4) I turn now to my opponent's "sock puppet government" argument, commending my opponent as I do for creating an epic argument name. A lie told by a politician does not need to come from the politician's mouth. It can be said by another agent, the politician's blog, an email to journalists or a sock puppet. If it was unreasonable for the politician to expect privacy in the situation (who'd expect privacy from a spokesperson) then the politician falls afowl of the law under my model.

Related to this argument, my opponent states that politicians will simply no longer tell us their policies. I disagree. I think politicians will simply frame their policies more carefully, ie instead of "I will raise taxes" they might say "I will raise taxes if the treasury says it is viable to do so". I think that means greater transparency in the system and encourages honesty within the political class, which is a good thing.

5) My opponent describes how the US president is protected by constitution and thus cannot be sued. The US constitution, as I understand it, is as amendable as any other document. Good thing too (http://en.wikipedia.org...). My model would remove the sacrosanctness around the office of president, holding the president to the same level of accountability as everyone else. That's good, because the United States has had its fair share of bad presidents in the past.

Propping up my supposedly "negated" points:

1) I told you lying is immoral. My opponent then proceeded to show a single example of a politician lying in war, which he claims is morally justified. Three responses. First, my opponent failed to give any real evidence as to why his example is morally justified. Second, war is generally also considered immoral. We already prosecute politicians who instigate wars. Hey, that's why we had the Nurnberg trials! If Churchill had used a lie to start a war, then he should be prosecuted for that as well. Third, it's not inductive logic to give only one example and draw out a rule from that. A better rule can be made of the countless politicians who were publicly hated for their lies. Think of Clinton. I could list several New Zealand examples too, and I'm sure that you don't like it when politicians lie in your country, wherever you may be. In the specific case of your example, I think any sensible jury (like the Privy Council usually are) would overturn the conviction of Churchill because the conviction is not in the public interest. Besides, even if he were convicted, a by-election would be held and Churchill would be re-elected. Frankly, it wouldn't matter.

2) I told you that it would improve transparency and faith in government. Perhaps my opponent failed to read this one, because he has no response.

3) I gave you an example of how else we censor lying, and why the comparison is legitimate. Again, my opponent ignores this point.

4) I gave you a principle, that of democracy. I do wonder whether my opponent bothered to read the second half of my speech. He ignores this point too. Please respond to my arguments!

Adding two more minor points in:

1) Members of the public who are apathetic to government are often apathetic because they know that politicians pretty generally all institute the same policies anyway. Being more open about their policies, politicians discourage apathy among voters. This leads to more informed decisions being made.

2) Let's bring non-democratic nations into this. By encouraging transparency in our government, we at the same time encourage transparency in foreign governments (peer pressure). We also make them more trusting of us, because they know our politicians cannot lawfully lie in public.

It supports and upholds democracy. It reduces voter apathy and improves transparency. It's consistent, moral and principled. It stands. That's why the resolution is affirmed. That's why I propose the motion today. That's why you should be voting PRO.
RoyLatham

Con

1) Pro says I suggested that proving lying is impossible. I did not. In fact, I gave an example of a proof in which the intent to deceive was disclosed to confidants, who later revealed them. Pro gave another example involving DNA evidence. While not always impossible to prove, the lies of politicians are *usually* impossible to prove because of the requirement to prove deceptive intent at the time the politician made the statement. Proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt, and there is rarely a way to prove that the politician lied rather than later flip-flopped on the issue.

I gave the example of Obama promising not to use reconciliation, and then subsequently using it. I challenge Pro to say how intent to deceive could be established.

Pro claims that if a politician claims inadequate information, then either he is lying or the former Administration was lying. Not so. Much information is not no known to anyone, and a former Administration is not required to disclose anything to a new Administration. Besides, bureaucrats are not politicians under the definition Pro accepted, so the former Administration bureaucrats are free to lie about anything they like.

2) Pro says, "most judges would be able to tell that the intent here would be to boost morale, not exaggerate the cost of war." However, Pro's resolution is absolute: all lies by politicians are criminal offenses. There is no latitude given for small lies, or lies intended to boost morale, or lies to deceive enemies, or to flatter allies, or for any other reason. Pro wants ordinary civil flattery made criminal. Pro goes on to suppose that a prosecutor would have to show the lie to have bad consequences. Pro said, "In that case the lie would have had a considerable negative impact on the country, and then Obama should be liable." But the resolution says nothing about distinguishing lies with bad consequences from lies with good consequences. All lies are criminal under the resolution. Any attempt to make "bad consequences" illegal would fail, because in the political realm, good and bad are subjective. If a person wants al Qaeda to succeed, boosting troop morale is a bad consequence.

3) Pro did not deny that democratic government would be brought to a halt by criminal prosecutions of politicians by people who want an administration blocked. It is undeniable because among the millions of constituents of a president, there are many with both strong convictions and money. Pro said that lying would be "criminal," which means that a local prosecutor in some district in the domain of the politician can press charges funded by taxpayer money. Separately, civil proceeding could be instituted by anyone in lawsuit alleging the act.

Pro said it takes evidence to make charges. If lodged by a prosecutor, the evidence needed is slight to gain an indictment; the strong evidence is needed only to convict. A civil lawsuit can be brought with no initial evidence, only a claim of damages. The defendant must then appear in defense. http://en.wikipedia.org... Only a preponderance of evidence is needed to win the lawsuit.

The Palin case is relevant because it shows that weak allegations can produce serious results. Its is as easy to gin up charges of lying as ethics violations. It cost absolutely nothing for a blogger to bring the charges, because under Alaska law a state ethics committee had to do the investigation after the complaint was made. Palin's half million dollar legal bill was widely reported, http://www.adn.com... I'll stipulate that lawyers are often overpaid, but that's what it is.

4) Pro claims, "A lie told by a politician does not need to come from the politician's mouth. It can be said by another agent, the politician's blog, an email to journalists or a sock puppet. If it was unreasonable for the politician to expect privacy in the situation (who'd expect privacy from a spokesperson) then the politician falls [afoul] of the law under my model." This claim fails because Pro offers no way to distinguish a statement accurately repeated from a false repetition. If a politician steps up and admits the sock puppet is correctly reflecting the politician's views, then that would hold, but the politician is never going to do that.

There is no question that conversations between staff and politicians are private. That's been upheld by the Supreme Court. http://en.wikipedia.org... The principle is also well establish in common law. http://en.wikipedia.org... Pro acknowledged in his opening case that only statements made in public are subject to the resolution, and such conversations are not made in public. It is reasonable to expect conversations held in private to remain in confidence; only the spokesman's public pronouncements are public.

5) I said that the resolution would override presidential immunity from prosecution. The point is that the reason immunity was orignally put in place was to prevent government from being incapacitated by massive numbers of legal attacks. Hence it's removal would be a disaster as anticipated.

2.1) Pro first claimed that lying was always immoral. He then claimed that a single example is insufficient to disprove his point, because induction requires many examples. Pro is wrong. If one claims that all swans are white, it takes exactly one black swan to disprove the contention. Pro granted that it was not immoral to lie to boost troop morale. . He also implicitly granted that Churchill's lying to the Nazis was not immoral. Pro claimed that Churchill would not be convicted under the resolution, because Churchill could be freed by jury nullification, a check on bad laws. http://en.wikipedia.org... But Pro relies upon the resolution being late nullified, the resolution should not be passed in the first place.

2.2) Pro claims that I did not answer is argument that laws against lying would improve transparency and faith in government. In fact, I said that the resolution would result in a sock puppet government that is less transparent and less trusted. If politicians continued to speak, government would be shut down by endless litigation, so non-politicians, who can lie without penalty would obviously be delegated to do all the speaking.

2.3) Pro says that companies are not permitted to lie about products, and by analogy politicians should not be allowed to lie. Pro's only reference is the unsupported opinion of a blogger. (The blogger also falsely claims that Bush lied about Saddam's WMDs.) Companies make false claims about products all the time, often implicitly rather than explicitly. Consumers are supposed to believe that some fabulous toothpaste or hair care product will make the opposite sex swoon, whereas they in fact do not. There s no law against making the claims. This is exactly comparable to the claims of politicians. As with politicians, the consumer is left to figure out the credibility of the claims.

There are some very specific circumstances where lying is punished in the commercial world: financial reports to the Securities Commission, certain product specifications, and support for certain advertising claims. Similarly, certain claims made by politicians are required by law to be truthful: the sources of funding, and some relations with lobbyists. Politicians can also be called to testify under oath in certain circumstances. Had Pro resolved to expand the specific areas of disclosure, I would very likely have supported some of those proposals. However, the resolution as it stands is untenable.

3.1) Pro supposes that conversion to sock puppet democracy would reduce public apathy. Just the opposite would happen because they would rarely hear politicians speak to them directly.

3.2) Authoritarians are never impressed by examples of democracy in any form.
Debate Round No. 2
larztheloser

Pro

I thank my opponent for his clarifications. This debate, my opponent has really only raised three objections to my model. First, he has claimed it would bring our society to a standstill. Second, he has claimed lying is impossible to prove. Third, he claimed that a set of middlemen would speak on behalf of the politicians. Let's examine whether any of those hold any weight.

First, would there be endless prosecutions? I'd say no. My opponent's case here is twofold. On the one hand he gives the example of Sarah Palin, a very specific example of a governor spending needlessly large amounts of money on a complaint that, in that particular instance, had nothing to do with the motion today. If the charges against her had been lying, and the case were false, the case would not have made it to court. This is because, prima facie, there is no case to bring (http://en.wikipedia.org...). My opponent also asks for a good reason why people wouldn't generally bother. I've given you a great reason - time and money required. My opponent thinks this money would be taxpayer money. Unfortunately, in every country I've ever heard of, you don't fund a civil case with taxpayer money. For a criminal procedure to be launched, you need a really big mound of evidence - unless a judge thinks you might have a case, you won't come before the court. Besides, courts will not try the same case twice, so the scope for attack on politicians is limited. It doesn't seem particularly feasible that immediately after the passing of this law, a few thousand people will bother to sue the president of the United States over a speech to Iraqi troops where he rounded a figure to the nearest trillion to make a point. I should add that in this example, if people believed and acted on the lie it would have a bad impact on the country not because Al Qaeda might get a minor strategic advantage, but because voters would have been misled, and that's always bad in a democracy.

Secondly, is it impossible to prove? In this matter I think the debate has become my word against his. If my opponent believes a Obama can be convicted under the law then this in itself shows that this point fails. To succeed in a trial under my law, you have to prove two things. First, that the lie was in fact said (my opponent challenges this separately under his third argument). Second, that the lie was intended. Can intent be proven? Yes it can. We already prove intent in every single murder case. Why should we be unable to prove intent here?

Thirdly, my opponent asserts the emergence of a sock puppet government (I do love the phrase) under my model. The case here has moved on over the last two speeches, and the question has now become "Can we prove that sock puppets will repeat information accurately?" Actually, yes we can. Lawyers do all the time. They need simply ask the politician - "If (name of sock puppet) had made a fallacious statement, surely you would have known about it, thus through the law of negligence you are liable under larztheloser's model?" There are probably other, better arguments, that smarter people than me will be able to think of. The point is it's entirely possible to prove this, thus if a politician would dare to use a sock puppet to get away with lying, he won't last long in office. This, by the way, is an unconnected issue to deliberative process privilege, which does not concern public pronouncements. Since we can prove that sock puppets are legitimate spokespeople for the politician, the politician can be charged and thus a sock puppet government would not emerge.

I would now like to revisit my six points and tell you why they are still left standing at the end of the debate.

First, lying being immoral. My opponent says that my law relies on the public interest clause, and thus is wrong. Two responses. First, it doesn't. Even if Churchill was convicted, he'd get re-elected afterward. If the punishment was something else, such as a fine, I'd say he'd gladly pay that small price for saving Europe from tyranny. My second response is that even if it did, what's so bad about that? The law was created with the idea that if the judge/jury thought the lie was bad enough, the politician could be forced to a by-election.

Second, improving transparency. My opponent here cannot think of an original argument, so he falls back on his old sock-puppets. Which I rebutted just a few paragraphs ago.

Third, the censorship of lying in commerce analogy. Con's response has been to say commerce is not censored already in a great many ways, so people have to assess the credibility of the company. Two responses here too. First, once a commercial lie is found out, the corporation collapses immediately. See Enron. However, a politician is immune until the next election period comes. That's why politicians need to have the immediate check on them, and that's why the status quo is not analogous. Second, even if it were analogous, people cannot assess the credibility of a politician if all they do is lie. Only after the lies all fall apart will the politician be found out, and by that time, it would already be too late. That's why this example of a double standard is perfectly valid.

Fourth, the democracy principle. My opponent STILL ignores this point. As he has ignored it for the whole debate thus far, I think it would be unreasonable to start a whole new line of argumentation now. This point clearly falls to my side of the house.

Fifth, voter apathy. Like on my second point, my opponent cannot think of any arguments here, so he falls back on those goddamn sock puppets. I need not remind you that this is a fallacious point.

Sixth, non-democratic nations. My opponent believes that other countries will never convert to democracy through external pressure. If that were the case, then Greece would be the only democratic country in the world. My opponent does not engage with my analysis that it also makes these foreign nations more trusting and thus more likely to engage with us.

My opponent falls back on the same tired and oft-rebutted old arguments, demonstrates his complete ignorance of half of my arguments, and argues using nothing but false analogies. I've offered a clear model, multiple principles and strong arguments backed by my dodging of all the practical issues. That's why the motion stands at the end of this debate. Please - vote pro for a moral, democratic, just, open and accountable future.
RoyLatham

Con

Democracy (4). Let's start with Pro's fourth point, since he does not seem to recognize my argument. Pro says, "...the democracy principle. My opponent STILL ignores this point. As he has ignored it for the whole debate thus far, I think it would be unreasonable to start a whole new line of argumentation now." I said in R2, "In fact, I said that the resolution would result in a sock puppet government that is less transparent and less trusted. If politicians continued to speak, government would be shut down by endless litigation, so non-politicians, who can lie without penalty would obviously be delegated to do all the speaking."

It suffices that the result of the resolution fails to achieve the stated goal. I have argued throughout that the resolution will decrease transparency. The resolution makes lying a criminal act, without any qualifiers on whether the lie is justified or not (to mislead an enemy), whether the lie causes serious damage or no damage, or whether the lie is a slight exaggeration or a grave misstatement. The resolution makes no distinctions of exceptions. Moreover, anyone can file a lawsuit and any prosecutor can initiate criminal proceedings; it isn't limited to Congress or some special body. The consequence would be that politicians would say nothing or speak through proxies for fear of prosecution. That would dramatically lower the transparency of government, which would be bad for democracy. How could Pro have not understood that I was denying that the transparency he seeks would not result?

1. Pro's first point was that lying is immoral. I pointed out cases where lying is not immoral: to mislead enemies, to flatter or encourage friends, and for trivial purposes like using rounded numbers. So why should politicians be convicted criminals as a result of acts that are beneficial or at least not harmful? Pro relies completely upon jury nullification, that juries will not return verdicts as the law requires. A far better solution is to reject the resolution and start over.

2. Pro's second point mainly restates the virtues of transparency, refuted by the effect of the resolution being to decrease transparency. Pro further asserts, "When politicians lie, people are unable to distinguish between fact and fiction in government because there is often no mechanism for finding out the truth." In a democracy, people can figure out the truth themselves, and there are opposing politicians to refute lies. In many cases, no court could determine the truth. Did Obama lie when he promised reconciliation would never be used, or did circumstances cause him to re-evaluate his position? No court can determine what was in his heart-of-hearts. Voters get to make the call, and also whether they think the issue is important. It is not a matter for criminal prosecution.

3. Pro's third point was that "lying is already censored in a wide range of less important areas." Pro pointer to a blogger that made the parallel to consumer law, but never cited any surveys of consumer laws. In consumer matters, some lies are allowed and others are not. The same is also true of politicians, who must make certain financial disclosures, acknowledge sponsorship of advertising, and may, in serious matters, be called to testify under oath. Pro's analogy therefore fails. He might have argued that there ought to be broader circumstances when lying is criminal, but the resolution makes all lies crimes, even if trivial or simple flattery.

N1. I claim that the resolution would, if politicians continued to speak, produce a flood of litigation that would cripple government. Pro argued that they would not, due to the time and money involved in initiating such litigation. Let's examine the two avenues of litigation, civil and criminal.

Civil litigation requires no evidence to file. To win the lawsuit the plaintiff must have a preponderance of evidence on his side, but filing the suit requires no such evidence, just claims. In the U.S. filing a Federal lawsuit costs $350, and does not require the services of a lawyer. A website gives step-by-step procedures, http://www.tabberone.com... The lawsuit has better chances if it is pressed by a lawyer, but that's not a real obstacle. There are plenty of lawyers across the political spectrum willing to whip up lawsuits against whomever is in power at no cost.

Since all lawsuits allege lying, they will quote the same legal precedents, the common legislation implementing the resolution, and probably the same arguments that punitive damages should be assessed. That all goes into a template, with a few paragraphs devoted to the specific accusations. There is already a business of selling templates for lawsuits of various kinds, see http://www.google.com... Expect one professional prepared suit to be copied.

The case may also be pursued criminally. For a president making a broadcast speech, any citizen in any district would have standing. Indictment are made by a grand jury or a preliminary hearing. Grand juries comprise citizens who vote, usually by two-thirds majority, that there is probable cause to have a trial. Grand jury indictments are notoriously easy to obtain. Jurist Wachtler famously observed that "prosecutors have so much control over grand juries that they could convince them to 'indict a ham sandwich.' " http://www.barrypopik.com... So if one wants to indict George Bush, a far-left prosecutor and grand jury in a place like San Francisco would virtually guarantee charges filed. For left-wing presidents like Obama, venues in the South would do the job. All the expenses are then born by taxpayers.

Indictment by preliminary hearing is done with a judge determining probable. Judges are probably harder to fool, but at the some time they are more likely to interpret the resolution as it was intended, to include all cases of lying, even if justified or minor. All the venues in the United States are available to find a prosecutor and judge that have a favorable attitude. All subsequent expenses are then born by taxpayers.

The time and money obstacles to litigation are slight, but even if they were severe, there would still be a flood of prosecutions. That is because there are very rich people willing to go after politicians of any stripe. For example, billionaire George Soros has deep pockets supporting left-wing causes http://www.discoverthenetworks.org..., and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch fund right-wing causes. http://www.newyorker.com...

N2. While it is easy to instigate litigation, proof is very difficult. Pro said that intent is proved in murder convictions, so it ought to be easy in cases of lying. In murder cases, the proof has to be that the death was not accidental or natural, which forensics can do. However, proving premeditation in murder cases is much more difficult because it is a state of mind, so cases are often pleaded down to manslaughter or second degree murder. Proving an intent to deceive is far more difficult. Forensics rarely comes into play, and the politician simply says he was sincere in his belief at the time.

N3. Conversations between a politician and his proxy, a sock puppet, are not public under the resolution. Hence the result is the politicians will not speak directly to the public, for fear that litigation will tie their administration in knots if they speak publicly. Sock puppets would be the rule, eliminating the transparency Pro hoped to achieve. If Pro manages to defeat the sock puppet protection legally, then politicians would stop communicating to the proxies. The danger was well understood in the U.S. Constitution.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
larztheloser

Pro

A quick summary of my case follows in the next 9 sentences. I gave you six clear reasons why my model was a good idea. Con came up with three responses, which he more or less stuck to even until his final speech. First, he thinks people will accuse everyone of lying for trivial phrasings, despite my model clearly stating that there had to be intent to deceive as otherwise the mistruth is not deliberate. Second, he still hangs on the idea that we can't prove it, an obvious contradiction to his first point, and ignorant of all the first-degree murder cases that we do prove. Third, his idea of a sock puppet government is as silly as it sounds, because the protection can be destroyed legally, destroying the whole system con made up in desperation. By way of comparison, con failed to understand that my morality point was not about what legal issues it relies on, but rather the fact that the people should be able to bring bad politicians to account, and thus con's attack ultimately fails. On my second major point, abut transparency, my opponent only ever repeated the same old arguments that he gave in his substantive material, which I have rebutted many times over. Therefore con has failed at attacking the motion, and therefore the motion stands. I thank my opponent for a fun debate and urge a pro vote, one last time! (-;
RoyLatham

Con

There is no contradiction at all in my claims that charges of lying are very easy to bring, but very hard to prove. If you had a national audience in a litigious country, and everything you said was scrutinized for exaggeration, flattery, and errors with prosecution the consequence, you would soon learn to let others talk for you. Pro has proposed pixie dust as a practical means of flying, and protests in outrage that I keep bringing up gravity as an objection.

The American Founders recognized the problem of freezing government by litigation, and they accordingly protected against it by allowing no charges against a president except impeachment through Congress. The resolution would undo that careful protections with disastrous results.

Pro offered scant evidence that --while we agree that politicians lie-- many of the lies are provable in court, nor does he provide evidence that legal procedures would prevent inundation by prosecutions and lawsuits. Rather than providing evidence and logic, Pro has relied heavily on empty claims that his arguments stand, demands to change the subject, and personal insults. I offered ample good evidence of the willingness and ability of political opponents to assault government through litigation.

The present proposal is naive attempt to use the courts instead of the judgment of voters as to what was a lie and what was a reasonable change in position due to circumstances.

The resolution fails and should be voted down.
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Shtookah 3 years ago
Shtookah
How the phuck would that be enforced?
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
larz, You can say "The arguments neither developed nor addressed my points," because that attacks the arguments without attacking me personally. While that passes on conduct, IMHO it is not a good debate tactic to claim such generalities. It is far better to be specific, per "The argument that the resolution would cloud democracy does not address my point because ..." I heard you complaining, but could not figure out exactly what you were complaining about. If I couldn't figure it out, then some of the readers are unlikely to understand it either.
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
OK, how do I say that your arguments neither developed nor addressed my points nor even be proper arguments in a nicer way?
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
larz, You said, "My opponent falls back on the same tired and oft-rebutted old arguments, demonstrates his complete ignorance of half of my arguments, and argues using nothing but false analogies." That is a personal attack saying I am ignorant and deceitful. The way to avoid that is to attack the arguments. You could have attacked the arguments by saying, "Half of my arguments went unanswered, and the analogies presented in rebuttal were false." It is something of a fine point of debate, but I found the cumulative effect annoying.
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
If I could vote, I'd have to admit losing. Personal insults though? Pretty sure I didn't go that low!
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
Three rounds is OK, I just like being able to spend all of my third speech rebutting and doing my conclusion in isolation. To make it less long I'm limiting the fourth round to 10 sentences.
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
I think three rounds are best. That covers most issues, and people don't want to read lengthy four round debates. Also, I think it best to limit voting to one month. If you hang round the site long enough, you are bound to annoy someone who then goes back and vote bombs past debates.

However, not that big a deal ...
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
Volkov - how many would you have wanted?
Posted by Volkov 3 years ago
Volkov
I'd like to take this, though are four rounds really necessary?
Posted by Koopin 3 years ago
Koopin
But then all politicians would be in jail.
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by Smithereens 1 year ago
Smithereens
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Reasons for voting decision: This is a heavily votebombed debate, and its really old too. Normally I would give a good RDF but i got bored, and Roy was hammering this so I gave a vote by 1 point since I dont really know what happened in the last round.
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