It's O.K. to Lie to Ted Kennedy

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John
Ashcroft's weak performance at his confirmation hearings disappointed
many supporters. In the face of a brutal left-wing attack on his
beliefs, Ashcroft appeared to cave in and concede that he would
work vigorously to enforce many questionable Clinton-Reno policies
in the area of civil rights and abortion, among others. This was
a blow to conservatives who had hoped that the new attorney general
would strive mightily to reform or repeal what they regard as current
unconstitutional legal abuses.

It's
entirely possible that John Ashcroft abandoned his principles and
that his administration will be a wasted opportunity to restore
the rule of law. But there is another possibility, entirely speculative.
And that is that John Ashcroft simply LIED to gain the nomination.
Now before we get all upset about that possibility, let me argue
that no one is obligated to tell the truth to the likes of socialist
loonies such as Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer. No one is obligated
to be truthful to political thugs bent on destroying what is left
of liberty and free enterprise in America. Ashcroft ultimately swore
an oath to uphold the Constitution but any side-bar promises that
he might have made to Dianne Feinstein or Pat Leahy are, in my view,
entirely meaningless. Sure, Dianne, sure I'll enforce your stupid,
illegitimate laws. Sure I will. Just hold your breath.

The
Ashcroft situation can be likened to that of a victim in a confrontation
with a mugger or robber. In my view the victim has absolutely no
moral duty to be truthful to anyone hell-bent on harming him or
stealing his property, especially if the truth would make the crime
even more likely. Simply put, criminals forfit their right to truth
when they steadfastly refuse to respect the sanctity of life and
private property. Therefore it would be entirely appropriate, I
dare say mandatory, for a potential victim to fib or lie (about
the nearness of the police, for example) if the fib could prevent
the robbery or help catch the criminal. And since 99% of politics
concerns the suppression of liberty and the forceful redistribution
(theft) of property, I would argue that the same fib loophole applies
there – and with a vengence.

Here's
a final illustration of the fib theory in the area of antitrust
policy. From my perspective, the prosecution and lower court conviction
of the Microsoft Corporation was totally illegitimate and the government
case should be abandoned immediately. Yet if I were nominated to
head the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, I could
not be confirmed if I stated that position openly and honestly.
Would a fib to the likes of Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton be
appropriate if it would lead to the restoration of rights and justice
in the software industry and prevent similar economic travesties?
I think so. And if you don't think so, I'm afraid that you are looking
at many more decades of socialism here.

Did
John Ashcroft lie to Ted Kennedy? I don't know, but I hope he did.
And did he have his fingers crossed behind his back when he left
the hearings? I sure hope he did.

February
19, 2000

Dom
Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of
Hartford and author of Antitrust:
The Case for Repeal
(Mises Institute, 1999). He lives in Vero
Beach, Florida.

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