Monday, April 14, 2008

Guilt by Association

I was recently in a debate about whether or not the media should be reporting on associates of presidential candidates.

Most people seem to hold the gut feeling that the associations of presidential candidates is fair game for media scrutiny; However the idea of judging a candidate based on the company they keep seems to be a violation of the principle of Freedom of Association.

My take on the issues was as follows:

The term "Freedom of Association" is a place holder for a statement similar to "The State should not judge an individual for their association."

The statement "An individual should not judge a political candidate for their associations" is a logically independent statement.

The relation is a little bit like the logical converse. P → Q (P implies Q) is logically independent of its converse Q ← P (Q implies P). A triangle is a polygon does not mean that a polygon is a triangle.

One of the most fundamental mistakes of reason is to assume that the converse of a statement is true. The converse may be true. However, since it is logically independent, it must be analyzed independently.

My next observation was that, since political candidates often appoint their associates to positions of power, then it is critical for the media to examine the associates of a candidate.

I have noticed that whenever the press questions a candidate about their associations, their minions run around crying that their opponents are playing foul and trying their candidate by "guilt through association."

These cries ring hollow to me.

An election is something completely different from a criminal trial. A criminal trial has the goal of punishing criminals for their misdeeds. In a criminal trial, the court is considering a negative action against an individual.

An election is a decision about the direction a group wishes to follow. It is an inherently possitive thing. In an election, the people are weighing the good and bad things that might happen when the candidate is in power.

Trying to apply the standards of a criminal trial to a political campaign is absurd because they are logically different actions.

Anyway, after our discussion I helped pen a blog post on Freedom of Association.

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