Speaking philosophically rather than legally, should there be limitations on freedom of speech in the case of president-elects, or public officials in general, making unsubstantiated or even false claims? Saying, for instance, that millions of illegals voted. I think many people think that there's a public interest in false claims -- if made openly, they can be openly discredited. But in this particular case, while there is no evidence for the claim, there is also no evidence against it, so it can't, for the time being, be definitively refuted. Meanwhile, there are potentially big negative consequences -- eroding confidence in the electoral system, inflaming racial tensions, etc.

A couple of thoughts.

First, lying is bad, and it's not any less bad when it's done by a politician trying to whip up his supporters. No need for philosophy here. That's not the same as saying that it should be against the law for politicians to tell bald-faced lies, but there are moral limits on what people should say. Donald Trump hasn't given evidence that he cares much about those limits.

Second, you write that there's no evidence against the claim that millions of ineligible aliens voted. If you mean that no one has done an extensive view of the voting records, then perhaps that's true. But that doesn't mean it's reasonable to suspend judgment until someone decides to do a review. The evidence in general is that voter fraud is rare. Even when zealous politicians go looking for it, the pattern is that they don't find it. (Of course there are isolated cases, but that's not what's at issue here.) So we have a general reason to be very suspicious of what Donald Trump has said, and no reason worthy of the name for thinking it might be true.

A larger matter: some people have asked whether Donald Trump is a liar, or whether that doesn't really get things right. Philosophy might be able to help us out here. In 1986, Harry Frankfurt wrote an essay called "On Bullshit."It became a book in 2005. Frankfurt's account of bullshit is that it's a matter of not actually giving a damn about the truth. Here's a passage that's worth quoting in full.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Sound like anyone you know of?

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