I’ve been listening to some quarterly earnings conference calls for several businesses over the last couple weeks and something struck me during the last one. There are very defined rules for what can be said during these calls as well as most of the rest of the communications that come out of a public company. If a company spokesperson were to lie or misstate something then it would have serious consequences for the company.
So the issue that I don’t understand is that if we can codify and enforce requirements for business people then why can’t we hold our elected officials to a similar level? Why are elections seen as the primary remedy for this sort of conduct? I’m currently convinced that the election system is broken and that nothing short of public financing of elections and non-partial computer generated districts will even begin to fix it.
Officials know that in all of the craziness around election season most of these little lies and misstatements will be drowned out. But if it can be shown that an official has made a false statement, then I think there should be a fine, say from $100 to $50,000 per offense depending on severity and repetition. This money can go back to finance the elections or to some other worthy cause.
You could say that this would have a chilling effect on political discourse and that no one would say anything anymore. I would argue that if someone isn’t sure about what they’re saying they shouldn’t be saying it anyways. The noise would have to stop and we would be left with actual dialog.