Legal Can Still Be Wrong

The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow slams Barack Obama for “attacking people for exercising their legal rights.”

What Obama did was to criticize the hedge fund managers who forced Chrysler into bankruptcy for doing something that, though legal, Obama (correctly) viewed as immoral. Is that really such a crazy course of action? A woman who cheats on her husband or a father who never reads to his kids is exercising his or her legal rights, but I think many would say it’s still appropriate to criticize such conduct as wrong. And the President of the United States is within his legal rights to make poor policy decisions, but of course he should still be criticized.

There’s a sense out there, however, that businesspeople should be exempted from the normal rules of society in which some things that are legal can also be wrong. Business decisions made by executives at ExxonMobil are imperiling the well-being of the entire planet but, hey, it’s just business. I think this makes no sense. It would seriously imperil liberty if you tried to make it illegal for people to do everything that’s wrong. But that means you have to be able to criticize people for doing stuff that’s wrong.