Chatting around the dining table the other night, we reviewed all the laws that require sellers to fully disclose to the buyer the condition and relevant history of what is being sold. Such full disclosure provisions as apply to real estate, cars, firearm purchases, medicines, and so on.
But when it comes to politicians who will not only affect our lives, but the future course of a state, or region, or even the whole country (world?), we are pretty much encouraged to buy a pig in a poke. In vetting candidates for office, we rely on a hide-and-go-seek game between the candidate and the press, or the ‘political operatives’ of their opponents. For all too many good reasons, today people think very little of journalism and journalists. According to the Pew Center for the People and the Press, two out of three people think press reporting is “often inaccurate”; four out of five believe the press “tends to favor one side” and is “often influenced by powerful people and organizations”.
So here we go again, voting for some smooth talking, slicked down Sam or Sally, and later we happen to find out that s/he has been fighting clinical depression for years, has a law degree from an online diploma mill, ran two businesses into the ground, smokes pot regularly, or mysteriously lost a spouse whose remains have never been found. You get my drift.
Wouldn’t it be better if there were a Candidates’ Full Disclosure of Material Facts law that requires each candidate to fill out an appropriately revealing questionnaire, and publish its answers online? The questionnaire would also ask if there were any other material factors or incidents in the candidate’s past that would bear on a decision by a reasonable voter to reject the candidate. The law would stipulate that knowingly providing false, incomplete, and/or inaccurate information constitutes perjury, and its subsequent discovery would be prima facie sufficient cause to start impeachment proceedings against the office holder.
Would such full disclosure laws on the books of the several states and in the US Code result in our becoming better informed voters while getting a better slate of candidates, and consequently a better set of politicians in office? Or would there be collateral effects that outweigh any benefits, advising us to just suck it in and be satisfied with being led by sleazebags and morons?