Friday, September 15, 2017

Who watches the watchers

As I wrote about in an earlier post about goings-on in Prague, the man who’s most likely to be prime minister after next month’s elections is also facing trial for having used fraudulent bookkeeping to get an EU subsidy to a farm/resort he owned.

Last week, parliament debated whether to strip Andrej Babiš and a colleague of parliamentary immunity so that they could stand trial. They voted pretty decisively to do that, but of course not everyone was happy with the whole situation.

Bohuslav Chalupa, a member of Babiš’s ANO party, said:
What happens once the court, say, proves or doesn’t prove Mr. Babiš’s guilt in this affair? What punishment will there be for those who falsely accused him, right before the elections, motivated by ANO’s high popularity? And I mean politically punished as well. Whether for instance the investigator will be dishonorably discharged from the Police of the Czech Republic?
As Respekt comments, Mr. Chalupa is presenting here his idea of independent policy investigation. (“Fokus agenda”, Respekt, Sep. 11 – 17, p. 22)

He’s also illustrating one of my “favorite” types of arguments, one that only works if you assume that you’re right about something else besides the thing you’re arguing. Only he’s not even doing that right.

Roughly speaking, Babiš is either guilty or he’s not.

If he is indeed guilty, then of course there’s no false accusation in the matter.

If he is indeed guilty, then the proximity of the charge and the elections is really beside the point. A guilty person should be charged. And if he stands to become your country’s next leader, all the more reason to get the information out into the open.

If he’s not guilty, then things are more interesting, but of course someone might look guilty but actually not be. So the standard for charging has to be not whether the person is guilty, but whether there’s substantial evidence to bring the charge.

But Chalupa doesn't want to have that discussion, so he tries to move the argument to ground more favorable for him, the contention that this is an unjust prosecution - a contention that only works if Babiš is pretty clearly innocent.

And then Chalupa takes this already bad argument and messes it up further by postulating a future in which Babiš is found guilty, and even then he speaks about false accusation and punishing the investigator.

With any prosecution of a politician, it seems like a good idea to consider whether the prosecution is politically motivated. But that consideration shouldn't displace consideration of the possibility that the politician is actually guilty.

No comments:

Post a Comment