The Public Law Vice of Hypocrisy

Let me answer like the man in the story, “I must decline the soft impeachment.” Randall Jarrell, A Note on Poetry, 1940.

Assumptions about human nature undergird public law values, like equality, liberty, and dignity. Setting these assumptions to light exposes public law values to various forms of political critique, some of which fall under the broad heading of hypocrisy (where a good is publically claimed, though perniciously, even purposely, unrealized). This paper analyzes the various argumentative forms of the charge of hypocrisy that are raised against invocations, and interpretations of public law values. In describing one form of hypocrisy, the paper draws upon the work of C.B. Macpherson and the relation between theoretical justifications for political rule and claims about human nature. The paper argues that while some forms of the hypocrisy charge might apply to any speaker, there is a particular iteration that is uniquely applicable to the structure of public law values.