A certain firm went out of business.
For more than 60 years it had sold garden seeds.
Its agents were young boys and girls who wrote in for seeds, sold them to their neighbors and sent a portion of the money back to the firm.
Why did the firm go out of business?
Because the child-agents were dishonest.
Too many of them failed to return the seeds or kept the money they got from selling them.
What would you conclude from the fact that a firm relying on the honesty of children could operate for 60 years but now was forced out of business?
It seems as though children are not as honest as they used to be, does it not?
However, children are not the only ones who are more dishonest.
The old folks still remember the time when they could confidently leave their house with the front door unlocked, or leave a bicycle on the sidewalk and not have it stolen.
It is not that way anymore in most places.
In a survey sent out by the magazine Psychology Today, most of the thousands who answered admitted to either minor or major dishonesty.
93% admitted that they occasionally drove faster than the speed limit.
68% percent had taken office supplies or other materials.
67% percent had cheated when possible on examinations or school assignments.
45% percent had cheated on their marriage mates.
And many had sent in false tax returns, had failed to declare a dutiable item at customs.
Others had improperly used the company phone to make long-distance calls or had cheated on an expense account.
An old English proverb claims that “opportunity makes the thief.”
Contrarily, there are some who insist that “the thief makes the opportunity.”
Many reasons for dishonesty have been suggested.
Here are some of them.
Why people have become more dishonesty?
Adults bad example:
When the seed firm mentioned above wrote to the parents of the children that owed it money, it often received a letter to this effect:
You’re a big company; you don’t need the money and you’re only trying to cheat my child.’
It is not difficult to see why those children learned to be dishonest.
Because it is easy to get away with it.
In replying to the above-mentioned survey a young student wrote:
There is always the pressure to excel to make high grades, and even if I’m prepared for an exam, I may cheat anyway. . . . Students cheat openly and obviously and many teachers do little or nothing about it. In short: I do it because I can get away with it.”
From infancy most children are subjected to its insidious influence.
Folklore, classical stories such as “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” films, TV programs and many books glorify dishonesty in one way or another.
In an interview a man in São Paulo, Brazil, blamed the influence of such religious practices as easy forgiveness, through confession, for many wrongs done.
One woman admitted that her world of honesty collapsed when “Father Christmas” turned out to be a relative.
From the stork that is said to bring babies, to politicians with empty promises—in all areas of life we are surrounded by powerful influences that tend to condition the mind to dishonesty.
Doubtless, poverty—or fear of poverty—leads to a lot of stealing and cheating.
However, people generally seem to have been more honest during the pre-war depression years despite widespread poverty.
And many dishonest people are far from poor.
Consider a case reported from Japan.
A group of men were found to be cheating a railroad company.
They had found a way to pay a little less than they should for the trip home after a day’s golfing.
Did they cheat because of poverty? Hardly.
One of the cheaters was a company president!
A newspaper columnist wrote:
“This naked lust for money underlies most of the nation’s moral problems.”
This same columnist added:
“Look, if you will, at our leaders. Our Congressmen, through slush funds and assorted ‘perks,’ leave what they are pleased to call ‘public service’ indecently rich, with fat pensions."
And what about our captains of industry?
The robber baron is not extinct.
There are many corporate CEO's who have made their indecent wealth by dishonesty
One shopkeeper recently stated that youngsters come into his shop in groups.
While one buys, the rest raid the counter. “When I was a lad,” he says, “boys were scared when caught.
The sad thing is that now, they couldn’t care less.
In some areas, if you tell them off, they come back and smash your windows.”
And it is not the underprivileged classes that do it all.
Not long ago, an elderly titled woman in England was convicted of shoplifting.
And who has not read of embezzlement's, some small but others that run into the millions?
A climate of dishonesty:
A report in Newsweek magazine said:
Many of the same Americans who complain loudly about white-collar criminals are really small-time crooks themselves."
Poor Americans cheat the welfare system and middle-class and upper-income citizens alike treat expense accounts as ‘swindle sheets’ and under-report their taxable earnings to the Internal Revenue Service.
‘In this society, everyone partakes.’”
Much of it has become so commonplace, however, that many persons no longer view it as dishonest.
Take some other typical situations.
An employer tells a clerk to reduce the amount shown in the accounts as received for certain sales.
The clerk takes the view that it is not objectionable because he is simply doing what the boss directs.
A wife cheats on the family budget, assuring herself that she is entitled to a little something of a personal nature.
A husband tells his wife that he has to work overtime, but he goes out with his pals or, perhaps, with another woman.
How do you feel about dishonesty?
Do you enjoy being lied to or cheated?
Are you happy to pay higher insurance premiums because of widespread insurance fraud, or higher prices to cover shoplifting and employee theft?
Would you consent to having your wife or husband cheat on you? Probably not.
But this is what is happening today, and we are all affected in one way or another.
In such a world, whom can you trust?
Do things have to be this way?
Please feel free to share your views.