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Two Wrongs – No

This isn’t a hard question. Two wrongs never make a right. In fact, two wrongs should be twice punished. Maybe then the offender(s) might get it right the next time.

The origin of this English language adage is based on the attempts of leaders of state and children to excuse their bad behavior by claiming that someone, usually a peer, had done something similar, thus attempting to justify an odious act by claiming precedent.

If that seems complicated, let’s look at my twin daughters; I know more about them than I do about leaders of nations. My daughters are expected to make their beds after they get up. This is a policy my wife and I instituted when they were little, with almost no success, I might add.

Selby works and occasionally forgets to make her bed in her haste to get to her job. Skye, who doesn’t work, rarely makes her bed. Her argument is what is called a “logical fallacy,” which is the basis of the question: “Do two wrongs make a right?”

Skye’s argument is that since Selby doesn’t make her bed all the time and isn’t reprimanded, there is precedent that not making her own bed is acceptable. To look at it another way: If all people lie sometimes, that makes it acceptable for some people to lie all the time. Wrong. We can all remember our youth when we said, “Well, Johnny did it, so why can’t I?” and our angry parents replied, “Because it’s wrong. If Johnny jumps off a cliff, do you do it?”

There are basically two ways to try to avoid punishment for our moral or ethical sins. One is to blame someone else and say, “S/he made me do it.” The other is to justify our sin by claiming, “Other people do it.”

That’s why it’s called a logical fallacy. It’s inherently flawed, morally corrupt, and tries to confuse the issue with irresponsible claims of innocence.

Our legal system isn’t always perfect in dispensing justice, and parents aren’t always perfect in dispensing judicial discipline. We have opened the door to the illogical defense of a deplorable action based on the premise that because someone else did it, it’s all right. It’s not about murder or burglary or the commission of a distinct crime, it’s about the more subtle failures of moral and ethical behavior – those equivocal areas of flawed judgment that lead to deceit, subterfuge, obfuscation, misinformation… in a word, lies.

In our legal system, sometimes that defense, weak as it is, works. In parenting, that defense usually results in a good spanking. I wonder why, since we all grew up getting a good spanking with that defense, as adults in our political and business dealings we go back to it.

Maybe we should bring back spanking.