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What Does Your Money Vow?
We hold businesses strongly liable for lies, and even for truths that authorities call misleading. Ordinary people, in contrast, are mainly held liable only for lying under oath in court, lying to police officers, lying for clear financial gain, and when a factual claim defames one person to another sufficiently carelessly. Otherwise we are free to lie, with only our reputation to consider, and then only if some convince others that we lied (even when we didn’t).
Now maybe we usually prefer to talk sloppily with only reputation costs. But there are many exceptions, times when we want to say something to others in conversation and have them believe that we really confidently mean and believe exactly what we say. Literally. And one way to do this is to offer a bond payable to the first party who disproves our claim to an independent judge. But we usually don’t have an easy way to make such an offer.
So let me suggest a way to make that easier. Change the law so that, for example, by saying “My $100K vows I ran a marathon”, I create for myself a legal liability to pay $100K to the first party to pay an application fee and then before a deadline prove to a court that I didn’t run a marathon. My words are to be interpreted literally and exactly, and then the judge/jury needs to be 95% sure my claim was wrong. It’s not about if I had good reason to believe what I said, just if I was in fact wrong.
(If “vow” seems too common a word, let’s pick some more obscure word instead.)
We should ensure that people who make such statements have actually arranged for the asset they vow to be available to pay, perhaps via liability insurance. So we need strong criminal penalties for vowing more than you can pay. They should also make some standard extra amount, above their vow, available to cover court costs of handling applications. There should be some standard amount for this.
People need an easy way to see if, for any one vow, the application fee required is low enough compared to the amount vowed to make it in the interest of people to claim the amount vowed. Ideally there’s be just a single standard well-known application fee for all cases, and a matching level of clarity and simplicity of offered proofs. Your initial offered proof will be rejected if it isn’t clear and simple enough to see on a fast reading that it has a decent chance of winning, if further investigation is made. Of course the initial proof isn’t the last word; cross examination can happen in a court proceeding.
Vows could benefit from my lottery system for lowering court costs.