Last week the Supreme Court made a decision that angered a lot of people. They stuck down the Stolen Valor Act which made it illegal for a person to lie about their military record.
The Supreme Court ruled that falsely claiming to have won a particular military honor was an act of free speech and therefore the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional.
While on the surface this seems like a disappointing ruling, it should be noted that anyone who lies and profits from those lies can still be prosecuted for fraud. Essentially our system is already set up to handle those who benefit from lies while also protecting a person’s right to make up stories even when those stories are offensive to some.
Congress seems determined to take up the cause again and attempt to refine the law to make it pass constitutional muster. Which I think is great but I find it ironic that Congress is attempting to make lying illegal.
After all, who lies more than a politician? They lie so often that an entire industry has popped up to fact check these prevaricators.
Making matters worse is that their lies actually have an effect on public opinion. Take for example the Affordable Care Act. When asked about the individual parts of the bill, many components have broad support but when asked about the bill overall the support goes down. This disconnect can be attributed to lies like death panels and coverage for illegal immigrants.
So if you are an elected official who is tasked with the job of helping run the country and in an attempt to defund the institution you say that abortion services are well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does while in reality the number is closer to 3%, you can just slough it off by saying that the lie that you spoke on the floor of the Senate was never meant to be a factual statement. But if you lie about having earned a purple heart to impress your high school classmates, Congress thinks you should pay a fine and spend some time in prison.
Is lying about your military record reprehensible? Yup. Is it worse than lying to sway public opinion on public policy? Probably not. But these are the results you get when the good of the country becomes a distant second to the good of the party.