The Two Basic Types of Dishonesty

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?

  1. anderson
    July 14, 2012 at 8:30 am

    As a mediocre business owner, I can agree with these observations. My competition has been relentless in their rip-off scams, and advertising keeps them in business. In a smaller community that is less socially atomized, their behavior what have them shunned then ostracized. Yes, your observations are correct. BTW thank you for putting in the effort on your blog AD as it’s an interesting read.

  2. webe
    July 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Honesty when dealing with a bureaucracy is foolhardy (close personal acquaintance of mine keeps furnishing more proof): Tell them no more than what they want to hear as long as you don’t make yourself liable for worse things down the pike.
    I would say there are three types of dishonesty:
    [1] Everyday dishonesty that is is expected. When asked why you want a job, don’t say for the money. If you’re late for work, don’t say you wanted to sleep in. Don’t tell your husband you slept once with his best friend: it will cause more damage than you’ve already done.
    [2] Pernicious dishonesty and perverse honesty. Telling the Nazi’s you’re harbouring a Jew is not honesty, it’s disloyalty, and honesty is above all loyalty (to the truth and other things of high value). Business style scams are also pernicious dishonesty, simply disadvantaging others for greed.
    [3] Dangerous dishonesty. This is the type of dishonesty seen with psychopaths and managers, or George Bush. Peculiar to this type of dishonesty is the practioners are so ego-manical that they have no double awareness of lying/truth. They are beyond duplicitousness, convinced that what is to their advantage is also true. Corporate propaganda and most ideology definitely falls in this last category. More an embracing of evil than a departure from the good.

    • P Ray
      July 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Does the kind of dishonesty “just to see how far you can go” or “to create drama and conflict” – is that kind of dishonesty separate from any previously discussed here?
      ‘Cause I’ve seen a lot of that happen, done by women.
      Or retaliatory dishonesty – done towards the next person … and NOT the person who did them wrong.

  3. Matt Strictland
    July 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Most dishonesty of the second type AD mentions is driven by status seeking behavior. This conduct is essentially a kind of drug addiction to naturally occurring chemicals that are triggered by improving or holding ones places in the “monkey band”

    These conducts are of course like most human conduct a mix of physical evolution (the structure of the brain) and social feedback.

    In societies that are fundamentally honest the place in the “band” is met by being honest even on a broader scale however the basics (biological drug feedback) are much the same

    As has been seen in western societies though, the honesty risky. Not only is the trust easily abused (such people are easy to scam) it can be brittle and lead to fast acting instability and genocidal violence.

    Now in theory such conduct is manageable, some sort of machine state could do it, basically 2407 AI surveillance but that is an inhumane (literally) intelligence. In time this would lead to a broader cooperative species through fertility control (the machine would handle all births) but in the process would create every widespread mental illness since the basic evolutionary pathways would be thwarted.

    • P Ray
      July 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      If you were able to see in a single population, “every widespread mental illness”, wouldn’t cures come relatively easier too since researchers wouldn’t have to go far to find the afflicted?

  4. jhbowden
    July 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    People who aren’t comfortable in their own skin enjoy projecting their own character quirks upon the rest of the human race. Many a do-gooder will believe that most people are generally good, just as a man with malice in his heart sees in the worst in everyone.

    That’s why I don’t believe there is such a thing as retaliatory dishonesty. “He hit me first” is for children and fools. It all falls under the second category. People who think they are truth-seeking straight shooters that only become dishonest against their will when others are dishonest, simply delude themselves; if such purported integrity could be jettisoned that quickly merely in the face of the misbehavior of others, it was never an established character trait in the first place.

    BTW, saying you want a job for the money is acceptable. The difference is in stating how the position fits into one’s longterm goals, versus just saying one wants the cash. The first demonstrates initiative, vision, and imagination; the second suggests one is a log and possibly a leech that may have to be let go in the future.

    • P Ray
      July 14, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      the second suggests one is a log and possibly a leech that may have to be let go in the future.
      Management makes the evaluations, and some management are not honest.
      In a situation where it is profit uber alles, I don’t expect company wrongdoing to be made public, especially when the company is profitable paying slave-labour wages.

    • Trucidator Luciferi
      July 15, 2012 at 7:56 am

      Most of you are still unaware that Advocatus of Shit is a fraud (regardless of the multiple valid points he has to offer). Read again carefully what he writes and you will see.

  5. Comment_Whatever
    July 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    *****
    That’s why I don’t believe there is such a thing as retaliatory dishonesty. “He hit me first” is for children and fools. It all falls under the second category. People who think they are truth-seeking straight shooters that only become dishonest against their will when others are dishonest, simply delude themselves; if such purported integrity could be jettisoned that quickly merely in the face of the misbehavior of others, it was never an established character trait in the first place.
    *****

    Presumably you also see no difference between murdering someone and shooting someone who just said “I’m going to kill you” and then reached for a gun.

    After all, if someones principles of not killing are so easily jettisoned “blah blah blah”.

    Every single person knows the difference between swinging first and swinging second so really.

    • P Ray
      July 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Some people have a funny idea of retaliation, they say the other person “was going to do something to me, so I did it to them first”.
      Bullies are the ones who come up with such creative rationalisations.

      • webe
        July 15, 2012 at 1:34 am

        Well, and in addition to pre-emptive strikes, you also have the following sentiment: I nailed him because he was asking for it, he was begging basically, and besides, he needed it desparately.

    • jhbowden
      July 17, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Presumably you also see no difference

      If what AD claims is correct, there is ultimately no such thing as a moral difference. We do what we must; Right and Wrong is the verbal, self-serving mumbo jumbo we add after the fact.

      After all, if AD believed the world was full of evildoers that should act Right instead of Wrong, he’d be like a priest spitting holy scripture at sinners, God’s advocate, not the Devil’s.

  1. July 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm
  2. May 31, 2014 at 4:07 pm

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