"I have done nothing wrong," said a stern-looking Lerner, sitting next to three other witnesses and reading from a written statement. "I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee."Lerner reasons that, because she has not broken any laws, violated IRS rules or regulations, or provided false information to "this or any other committee," then she has therefore done nothing wrong.
I do not know what extent Lerner committed any actual wrongdoing, but I will remark that ethical determinations do not end at the question of whether or not one has broken any governmental rules or regulations. It is not at all illegal for me to tease a young child, for example, to the point of tears, but no one would argue that I would "have done nothing wrong," were I to do so.
Such faulty reasoning is one of the core features of statism. If right and wrong is determined by what the rules are, then whoever makes the rules gets to determine what is right and what is wrong. There is no room for personal virtue in this equation. There are no separate concepts of "personal responsibility" versus "social responsibility."
Conflating laws with ethics has been central to the statist ethos since the time of Marx. I don't expect it to change any time soon. However, sometimes we get such a clear window into the minds of our regulators that it merits emphasizing.