Honesty Is The Norm

When one peruses the headlines it is often quite easy to become discouraged and assume that the world is corrupt and filled with lying, cheating people.  You can take almost any aspect of our daily life and see those disturbing stories.  Politics, business, personal behavior and even sports are all infected with the negative and dark side stories that would lead to that conclusion.  Our news has been filled with crooked businessmen and politicians and lying sports figures–Madoff, Massa and Woods come to mind rather easily at the moment as poster children for this downbeat view of mankind.  All that lying makes one my skeptical and downright cynical about our fellow man.  But take heart brothers all is not lost and that behavior is not the norm. 

The fact is that most people most of the time are honest.  It is not even close.  Think about any aspect of life and you will realize this in spite of headlines filled with liars.  Our laws are based upon the concept of honesty.  Both our civil and criminal laws derive from the basic proposition of what is acceptable and the norm.  Lying can get you in trouble with the law and does on a regular basis for some but that does not make lying the norm.  We assume people will be honest; we reject lying as a society.  Liars get sued and liars are prosecuted if the lie involves the criminal law.  Businessmen are assumed to be honest and that they will fulfil their contractual obligations and when they don’t they are sued.  Our entire economy couldn’t function if there wasn’t a strong underlying belief and fact of honesty in actions.  Who would sell anything to anyone on credit if there wasn’t a fundamental belief they would pay the bill when it came due?  For every Madoff there are thousands of honest businessmen going about their affairs dealing with other honest business men.  Honesty leads to trust.  We must have trust for any economy to work.  If we truly believed everyone was crooked and a liar then no loans would ever be made and no products or services would be sold.

Lord knows we do have too many crooked politicians but the majority are honest; we just disagree with their ideology or sometimes the details of how they propose to enforce the law.  If there wasn’t that foundation of honesty in our body politic then we would have anarchy.  Government could not function if it and the people it was to serve completely distrusted one another.  That is why we are so disappointed when the political system is corrupted because the lie was not the expected norm.  In politics the culprit more often than not is the kissing cousin of lying and that is hypocrisy.  Boy, are they ever guilty of that. 

You couldn’t drive your car and shop at the grocery store unless you had a basic trust in the honesty of the police system and the merchants at the store and the providers of products to the market.  How could you buy cereal if you were constantly worried they were shorting the amount or lying about the contents of the box?  We expect honesty.  We don’t expect lying and that is why we get so angry when we are lied to about the affairs of the day. You assume the others drivers won’t cheat and will follow the rules of the road so you can drive safely; otherwise how could you even negotiate the red lights?  The stock market is built on trust and honesty.  Contrary to what we might feel in the heat of emotion it couldn’t exist without honest people making honest transactions the overwhelming majority of the time.   Honesty is the best policy and it is good business.  Those caught in lies usually don’t survive the exposure of their lies, i.e., Enron, MCI, Madoff, Lehman, etc. 

Even the military is based upon the concept of honesty.  Duty and honor only have relevance if there is a fundamental belief in honesty. The troops have to trust their commanders and the commanders have to believe their oath to defend the Constitution has meaning and meaning would be absent if the government wasn’t fundamentally honest.  The lack of honesty is what leads to revolutions. 

Lastly, the Good Book teaches that honesty is what is expected.  Remember the Jesus railed against hypocrisy more than anything else and that is another form of lying because of the deceptive front presented.  Proverbs is loaded with sayings about the sin of lying and the consequences of it. 

So, take heart, at least for now we are still an honest people.  If we truly lose that trait as a people we are doomed regardless of politics, international troubles or economic woes.  If we retain it then hope will abide.

How many other States will be joining Virginia and rejecting the health care mandate for coverage for its citizens?  Stay tuned there will be many others that will follow and it will set up a badly needed Constitutional confrontation with Congress and the States.  We all need to know if there are any limits to what Congress can do under Art. One, Section Eight and the prohibitions against Congress in the Tenth Amendment.  That is the major political issue before the nation now.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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1 Comment

Filed under business, Economics, government, Politics, religion

One response to “Honesty Is The Norm

  1. You may be right in that most of the people are honest most of the time; however, everyone is dishonest at least some of the time.

    A further complication is that not all dishonesty consists of outright lies. If a price tag reads $7.99 then the price, honestly and truthfully, is $7.99. However, the price is very deliberately set in the hope that the customer will think $7 instead of $8. Similar strategies are used in many variations and combinations by e.g. politicians, corporations, used-car salesmen, …
    (For another example, see a
    recent diary entry of mine.)

    There is no need to be paranoid, but keeping “caveat emptor” in mind is usually a good idea.

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