Honesty, or the lack thereof, have historically been linked to everything from culture, religion, race, class, intelligence to morality. I have always interpreted such purported relationships as the products of biased minds steeped in sophistry and other assorted forms of bullshit. In any case, most people ignore a far more important and relevant question.
Is dishonesty always wrong?
I believe that dishonesty is best understood as a strategy. But towards what end? and under which conditions? In my opinion, dishonest behavior can be categorized into two types- based on the motivations driving the deceiver.
Retaliatory Dishonesty: This type of dishonesty is by far the most common type of dishonesty. The dishonest person is merely retaliating against a person, group or institution that has previously abused his trust. Whether it is the friend who betrayed you, the lover who cheated on you, the boss who screwed you, the company, bank or university that abused you or the country that lied to the person- the dishonest person id not throw the first stone. Therefore retaliatory dishonesty is about loss mitigation and payback, as there is no point in continuing to honor an agreement which the other party has willingly defaulted on. Indeed, not retaliating in the face of continued lying, fraud and abuse would be irrational.
But there is another type of dishonesty.
Preemptive Dishonesty: As it name suggests, preemptive dishonesty is a type of strategy where you start out with the intention of screwing over your counter-party regardless of their behavior towards you. Those who indulge in such behavior try to justify it based on prevailing social mores, attitudes, economic conditions, libertarianism, capitalism, communism or any other ideology. However an objective look at the circumstances surrounding such acts of dishonesty always reveal that the main motivators for such behavior are infact greed, sociopathy, narcissism and a focus on money that approach autistic obsession. As I will show in the rest of this post, preemptive dishonesty is far more disruptive to societies than simple retaliatory dishonesty.
My classification of dishonesty into the above mentioned two types came from an interesting observation I made in my childhood. Some people are enthusiastically and consistently dishonest even if not doing so would be far more profitable. Example- Many Indian businessmen insist on selling substandard products and services even if the providing high quality versions of them would increase their total and per-customer profits, in addition to increasing their share of the market. I should note that Chinese businessmen behavior towards their customers is an almost identical.
But why would they consistently act in this manner? are they arithmetically challenged? why would they not want more profit, a larger market share and more loyal customers? why go for a short-term pump and dump operation when the alternative is far superior? I believe that understanding preemptive dishonesty as a strategy is possible if you are willing to accept an unpleasant aspect of human behavior.
Most businessmen are driven by the need to steal from and hurt other people. It is about scamming, impoverishing and fucking over other people. Profit is the icing on the metaphorical cake.
Accepting the possibility that most businessmen are driven by motivations other than profit allows us to then explain a whole range of seemingly irrational behaviors of the ‘rich’- from hoarding money beyond the point of utility, socializing losses and privatizing profits, fostering inequality to the point where it threatens their own existence, running perfectly good businesses into the ground to extract more money. It also allows the rest of us to create behavioral lists to identify such individuals and take appropriate action against them and their offspring.
What do you think? Comments?