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Distinction between lying and fraud

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Fraud is defined as obtaining a value by deception regarding a material fact.

Lying is intentionally telling a false statement (or statement you believe to be false).

 

Under an Objectivist legal system, what is the distinction between the two? By this, I mean, when lying results in man taking an action he wouldn't have without the lie, then when does this become actionable in Criminal Law? What is the threshold? 

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As I see it lying and fraud are equally immoral since they both set out to fake reality to someone, but only fraud can be protected against with individual rights i.e. deception practised where there exists a contract, explicit or implicit. For all else, nothing for it, but to protect oneself against others' duplicity.

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I consider an "Objectivist legal system" to mean a completely moral legal system.

Fraud is criminal because property rights are violated. (That's the easy one.)

Lying? Good question.....

Would purgery be criminalized in an Objectivist legal system?

No.

But if a man in a courtroom was found to be lying about something which would violate somebody's property rights, if he was to be believed, I think a judge could charge him with "attempted fraud" (if criminalizing intent is moral).

I can conceive of myself lying to a judge without violating anybody's rights.

Lying isn't necessarily immoral when I deal with immoral actors, because my honesty could be used as a weapon against me. Remember when Galt told Dagny to lie if the bad guys asked if she knew him.

But of course lying becomes an epistemological impedement due to the falsification of reality that has to be maintained, which can cause problems down the road, so it's best to avoid.

Would libel be criminalized?

No.

There could be cases where the intent of the liar is to cause a man to initiate a use-of-force based on his belief of the libelous claim. A charge of "conspiring to commit [insert crime here]" would be a valid statute (again, if criminalizing intent is moral).

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... Lying isn't necessarily immoral when I deal with immoral actors, because my honesty could be used as a weapon against me. Remember when Galt told Dagny to lie if the bad guys asked if she knew him...

 

This is a common misconception.  In terms of moral absolutes, e.g. good vs bad, and true vs false, there can be no virtue in the promotion of a falsehood for any reason.  What you are referring to is the moral relativism of a vigilante who sanctions bad for the greater good.  Lying is necessarily immoral, period.  Consider Hank Reardon's nickname for the Wet Nurse, Non-Absolute.

 

The point is, immoral actions are the consequence of fallible beings, and not made virtuous by calling them gooder or truer actions.  To put it another way, Immoral actors act immorally, so lying to a liar doesn't make one a moral actor by comparison; both remain liars.

 

Fraud is defined as obtaining a value by deception regarding a material fact.

Lying is intentionally telling a false statement (or statement you believe to be false).

 

Under an Objectivist legal system, what is the distinction between the two? By this, I mean, when lying results in man taking an action he wouldn't have without the lie, then when does this become actionable in Criminal Law? What is the threshold? 

 

Using the definitions you provided, an objective legal system would consider fraud the greater offense.  Lying is simply denying the truth and cannot harm anyone who knows better.  Fraud is misrepresenting the truth to someone who doesn't know better.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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I think you identified the razor in the original post. At this point we need only apply it to concrete situations. Is there a particular scenario that interests you?

 

I think the legal threshold in any scenario would be intentionally harming another.  Typical scenarios usually involve some form of lying to a liar in order to sanction a moral exception.  I'd prefer a scenario in which one confronts a liar with the truth in order to demonstrate the virtue of being honest.

 

For example, an aggressor asks me to locate an intended victim, and instead of lying, I refuse to provide the location; specifically that I know the location but will not reveal it because I don't want the victim harmed.  Have I helped or harmed the intended victim by not lying or being fraudulent??

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Honesty cannot be used as a weapon against oneself;  it's the shield by which dishonesty is disarmed.  Furthermore, the security of honesty would be of paramount importance to any society under objective law.  Lying and fraudulence would be considered criminal by the threshold of intentional harm such acts caused to others; lying primarily challenging the honesty of others, and fraudulence primarily challenging the intelligence of others.

--

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." ~ William Shakespeare

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Dearest Devil's Advocate,

Lying in self-defense is a moral action. (Similar to how the use of force becomes a moral action when done in self-defense.)

A man with a gun said, "Steve, tell me where Dagny is or I will shoot you in the head!"

"She's at the bar in the lobby of the Wayne-Falkland," I lied.

I would've been killed if I refused to answer. Dagny would've been killed if I told the truth (she was buttnaked in my cabana).

Two values were kept by my action.

I Remember the part in AS that showed me how my virtue of honesty can be used as a weapon against me by evil men. What did that mean to you?

I remember Galt telling Dagny to lie about their relationship. What did that mean to you?

I see that context matters regarding morality.

Here's where I hope we can agree: Epistemologically, lying is always bad because it creates a breach with reality that has to be maintained, and possibly expanded,to protect the

lie. I don't think I need to explain how a consciousness that benefits from a strict adherance to reality can suffer from the creation of such a breach.

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...

Lying in self-defense is a moral action. (Similar to how the use of force becomes a moral action when done in self-defense.)

...

The use of force becomes justified in self-defense of ones life; the moral action being the preservation of ones life.  Legally, the victim must still prove the aggressor was a credible mortal threat, and not just scarry...

 

...

A man with a gun said, "Steve, tell me where Dagny is or I will shoot you in the head!"

"She's at the bar in the lobby of the Wayne-Falkland," I lied.

I would've been killed if I refused to answer. Dagny would've been killed if I told the truth (she was buttnaked in my cabana).

Two values were kept by my action.

...

First off, why does this kind of example always presume the aggressor will believe a lie?

Secondly, how certain are you that death would have resulted in either case??

Thirdly, the two values were kept by falsehoods... let that sink in and get back to me...

 

For now,  just persuade me that your initial lie prevented the eventual discovery of Dagny by a determined aggressor.

 

...

Here's where I hope we can agree: Epistemologically, lying is always bad because it creates a breach with reality that has to be maintained, and possibly expanded,to protect the

lie. I don't think I need to explain how a consciousness that benefits from a strict adherance to reality can suffer from the creation of such a breach.

Here's what we might be able to agree on:

1) It's immoral to intentially lie,

2) Immoral actions may be legally excusable,

3) Legally excusable actions aren't necessarily moral.

 

Honesty is the best way to avoid a breach with reality.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Fraud is a combination of lying and the force of theft. In other words, if I trade with someone, and then realize that I did not get what I was promised, or the terms of the agreement of the trade were not met, than I can go to the other person and say, "Hey something is wrong. This is not what I was promised." And since the agreement wasn't upheld, the money and/or items traded should be returned. But if someone does not fulfill the terms of the agreement and refuses to return the money or traded items, then it is an illegal trade and should be brought before a court. If the person knowingly misled in order to obtain a good, and refused to return the money/traded good, then that person is using force to hold onto my property and will not return it. That is theft. So, lying is a part of fraud, but only a part. The other part is the use of force to hold onto property that is not rightfully owned. 

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The use of force becomes justified in self-defense of ones life; the moral action being the preservation of ones life. Legally, the victim must still prove the aggressor was a credible mortal threat, and not just scarry...

First off, why does this kind of example always presume the aggressor will believe a lie?

Secondly, how certain are you that death would have resulted in either case??

Thirdly, the two values were kept by falsehoods... let that sink in and get back to me...

For now, just persuade me that your initial lie prevented the eventual discovery of Dagny by a determined aggressor.

Here's what we might be able to agree on:

1) It's immoral to intentially lie,

2) Immoral actions may be legally excusable,

3) Legally excusable actions aren't necessarily moral.

Honesty is the best way to avoid a breach with reality.

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Devil's Ad,

You dropped the context when you pointed out that the values were kept by the use of falsehoods.

If you told everybody I kept a value by killing a man, but context-dropped the fact that it was in self-defense of my life (theevalue), it's misleading.

You aknowledged killing is morally justified in defense of your life.

Lying isn't?

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Back to OP,

In an Objectivist legal system (where fraud is definitely a crime), an instance of a lie that could be a crime is when a lie causes physical harm or financial loss, sort-of like gross negligence, but not.

Example:I'm a professional security guard guarding a swimming pool that contains a poisonous chemical, in order to remove the stains. A chick in a red bikini asks me, "Is it safe to swim here?"

I know the pool is lethal, "Yep," I say, because my gosh darned ex-lover has that same gosh darned red bikini.

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I agree that honesty is the best way to avoid a breach with reality.

Regarding my example: assume, for the sake of argument, all the things you asked me to prove are facts, ie the killer wouldn't know I lied, etc.

Would lying to save my life be a moral action?

Assuming the aggressor followed your lead, it would have been at best a temporary diversion.  He would discover your lie and continued after Dagny.  In what way does this make her safe?

 

Lying is immoral; preserving your life is moral.  What happens when you add a negative to a positive??

 

Devil's Ad,

You dropped the context when you pointed out that the values were kept by the use of falsehoods.

If you told everybody I kept a value by killing a man, but context-dropped the fact that it was in self-defense of my life (theevalue), it's misleading.

You aknowledged killing is morally justified in defense of your life.

Lying isn't?

I acknowledge that honesty and the preservation of life is moral, so it follows that lying and killing are immoral.  There simply can't be any moral half truths.  So the real question is to what degree is immoral action legally acceptable, or excusable?  In a mortal contest between aggressor and victim, which actor is working to preserve life??

 

As to values kept by falsehoods, work backwards to how those values were obtained.  Is lying moral if done to gain something of value?

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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I can't answer your question because I don't accept your premises.

My premise is: ANYthing I do to a man who initiated the act of trying to kill me, as long as it's directed towards him, in the immediate moment and in defense of my life, is a moral act. It's the context of the situation that decides the morality, not a one-size-fits-all platonist dictate such as "killing and lying are always immoral."

Tell that to a woman who never hurt a soul until one day she was almost murdered in an alley, but thank goodness she had a gun and killed the would-be killer.

Tell her she commited an immoral act by defending theevalue, her life.

And tell her that lying would also have been immoral in that context.

Back to killing (cause it covers both): Tell her that after she had spent her life always choosing moral actions, at the moment before she killed in self-defense, she, in effect, chose: Life...or a Completely Moral Existence? She couldn't have had both, according to you. I've seen ethical codes that say you can't have both. That was all I saw.

Then I discovered Rational Selfishness.

Now I can have both.

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I think you identified the razor in the original post. At this point we need only apply it to concrete situations. Is there a particular scenario that interests you?

 

Yes, I was going to do this. Thank you for reminding me. I'm referring to lying in personal matters, as opposed to monetary (dollars). 

 

For example: Married man lies to woman (says he is single) to get her to sleep with him.

 

or

 

A cheater lying to his girlfriend about cheating on her to get her to stay with him.

 

or

 

Lying about having cancer to get people, who normally wouldn't have, to spend time and hang out with you (no dollars were exchanged).

 

or

 

Lying about being raped to get sympathy.

 

or

 

Simply lying to get someone else's approval, who normally wouldn't have given it without the lie.

 

All are cases of fraud, but should the government step in?

Edited by thenelli01
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Sex is and love are values that could be obtained by lying, which is fraud.

Civil and/or criminal laws should exist to protect against lying to obtain values that otherwise wouldn't have been given.

The distinction between civil fraud and criminal fraud must be clearly defined. And the varying levels of punishment must have concretes as standards.

Criminal and civil law experts who understand governments proper role is what's required.

But I see the principle that a lie that obtains a value (that wouldn't otherwise have been given) is an indirect use of force and a potential violation of property rights.

Free speech is like any other right: it becomes a wrong when it violates another man's rights.

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...

Back to killing (cause it covers both): Tell her that after she had spent her life always choosing moral actions, at the moment before she killed in self-defense, she, in effect, chose: Life...or a Completely Moral Existence?  She couldn't have had both, according to you.  I've seen ethical codes that say you can't have both. That was all I saw.

Then I discovered Rational Selfishness.

Now I can have both.

 

Life...or a Completely Moral Existence is a false choice;  no such thing as "completely moral" for a fallible being...

 

She couldn't have both because the latter is unattainable; for the same reason absolute life is unattainable mortal beings...

 

To have both requires living in denial.

 

...

Regarding your question: "Is lying moral if done to gain something of value?"

No.

No values are gained in defending one's life or preventing oneself from being robbed.

 

Bingo!  Here we can agree, and as soon as you apply this consistently to maintaining something of value we will be copacetic.

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You're wrong, Devil's Ad,

The fact that man is fallible, doesn't mean moral perfection is unatainable.

Accidents and mistakes due to errors or a lack of knowledge aren't immoral. Deliberately doing wrong is.

I respect that you're a socially liberal fiscal conservative who believes in god, yet wants to discuss ideas with Objectivists. The problem is that I consider many of your premises invalid, & we would have to agree on premises before delving deeper.

I'd rather not spend time proving the invalidity of your premises.

You're welcome to defend your assertion that moral perfection is unattainable because man is fallible, & I'd love to read it.

But debating it doesn't interest me.

I agreed: obtaining a value via deceipt is always wrong.

I never conceded that keeping a value via deceipt is always wrong, because I recognize the context of self-defense. So let's just agree to disagree on that point.

The OP is about laws

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