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Lying Is a Punishable Offense

There’s a social contract we all live by. It’s basically “I won’t do harm to you” and vice versa. We’ve granted that power exclusively to the government, and most of us can agree that’s a good thing overall.

In order for us to function as a society, we need to know who we can trust. As in, “I prefer to know and hang around people who won’t screw me or punch me in the face.” It’s the former – “don’t screw me” – that makes liars untenable members of society.

Lying is a punishable offense. When people lie and are caught in a big enough lie publicly, the consequences are often devastating. Though exceptions exist, most lying is punished swiftly and with total resolve.

This week there were a few elections around the country, and Democrats gained significant ground over Republicans. There are many reasons for the result, but Republicans’ lies were at least a contributing factor. Their primary campaign promises of fixing health care, reducing taxes, and de-escalating American military engagements have all fallen apart. Health care is in worse shape than before, tax policy isn’t likely to change, and we’ve escalated our military presence in ongoing wars overseas. All of this is with a Republican Congress and White House. They lied about their ability to fix anything, and they were punished.

Kevin Spacey is one of the most accomplished actors of the last few decades. After being accused of groping a 14-year-old boy, he promptly released a statement announcing that he’s gay. He’s not lying directly (i.e. saying “I didn’t do it” amidst irrefutable proof), but he is committing an intentional deceit. Being gay is not an explanation for sexual assault or pedophilia, and the explanation didn’t sit well with most observers. Now Spacey’s career is falling apart in stunning fashion.

In business, in life, in public affairs: lying is a punishable offense. Lying will be punished eventually. Even if a person or an institution still stands, there are cracks in the foundation.