On Trust, Truth and Justice

I believe that all people are good. I know that behaviors, however, can be good or bad. I trust that no one wants to behave badly, but I know that sometimes every individual will. To be completely candid, I don’t trust that any person will always, in all cases, under all circumstances tell the truth. Reality, logic, and a basic understanding of human psychology render such a trust absurd. I believe you are a good person, and I know that you are susceptible to committing bad behavior. I believe the same of myself. I trust that we all value honesty. It would be unrealistic, however, to trust that we all will always act in accordance with that value. We should not confuse our value of honesty with our need for accurate information; they are related but different categories of our social contract. The use of a breathalyzer and drug testing has everything to do with the latter and little to do with the former. We value honesty deeply and should do everything we can to promote and abide by that value. But in certain matters we require accurate information if our community is to function in a safe and orderly manner. If, in a critical situation, a potential failure to be honest places at risk our need for accurate information and we have at our disposal a relatively innocuous means to gain the information needed to uphold the standards of the community, it seems logical that we should avail ourselves of that measure – as a last resort, in a respectful manner, and with regret. I believe that I should not yoke you with the impossible burden of perfection, expecting that in every moment of extreme anxiety and possibly chemically impaired perception and judgment, you will be able to do what is right. I should not abandon you in that moment, leaving you to wrestle with choices to self-incriminate or self-betray (by going against your commitment to be honest), or betray (doubly) your commitment to abide by this community’s norms and expectations and in so doing breech the critical social contract between us all. One may indulge a choice to lie, or one may succumb to an urge to lie. Choosing to lie and flout a contract one has made is an antisocial act. No one in this community, with a social contract founded on honesty, has the right to lie. Succumbing to an urge to lie against one’s better judgment is evidence of a serious lack of impulse control. If we have a way of keeping people on the right side of such temerity or temptation (undoubtedly a very small percentage of people who will not or cannot stay on the right side), why not use it?