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Matt Levine

Exxon Might Be in Trouble Over Climate Change

Sometimes the only people you can't lie to are your shareholders.

A weird thing that some people believe is that it's illegal to lie. It's totally legal to lie! People lie in private all the time, of course, it is no problem. But it is also fine to lie to the public. Every day between now and next November, and then every day after that until the heat death of the universe, there will be a story about a leading U.S. politician who lied to the public. Today it is Republican presidential front-runner Ben Carson with an apparent lie about West Point, but there is no need to single him out. PolitiFact ranks politicians' statements on a scale of "True" through "False" and then "Pants on Fire!" Every leading candidate for president has at least one Pants on Fire except Bernie Sanders, who has six Falses.  None of those people will go to prison for those lies, and one of them will probably be president. But people also think that PolitiFact lies to the public! It is turtles all the way down. It is even conceivable that sometimes columnists lie to the public. Lying to the public is the American way.

It is so literally the American way that there is an actual part of our Constitution that says you can lie. That part is the First Amendment, which protects "freedom of speech," and which also protects freedom of lying. "Some false statements are inevitable if there is to be an open and vigorous expression of views in public and private conversation," shrugs the Supreme Court. Go ahead, lie, it's cool.