Monday, July 21, 2014

What A Surprise: Socialism Seems To Impair Honesty

The July 19, 2014 Economist reports on a study where Germans were asked to take a test which was intended to determine how honest people are, when the stakes are really low:
Lars Hornuf of the University of Munich and Dan Ariely, Ximena García-Rada and Heather Mann of Duke University ran an experiment last year to test Germans’ willingness to lie for personal gain. Some 250 Berliners were randomly selected to take part in a game where they could win up to €6 ($8).
What they found was that those who had grown up in East Germany were more likely to lie (to get the  €6) than those who had grown up in West Germany.  This really does not surprise me.  For all the rhetoric about how concern for others and the elimination of personal gain was going to create "true socialist man," my limited experience with people from behind the Iron Curtain suggests that instead of creating people of higher morals, it tends to do just the opposite.  

Many years ago, I worked with a gal who met a Soviet emigre on an Israeli kibbutz.  Of course, they fell in love (well, at least she fell in love).  They married, returned to the U.S., and he became a U.S. citizen.  She worked full time and paid for him to go to college and get an engineering degree.  She mentioned that it was really hard to get her husband to stop looking for ways to game the system, lie, cheat, and mislead to get what he wanted; it was just such a part of his personality after so many years in the Soviet Union.  And what a surprise!  Shortly after completing his degree that his wife had paid for...he divorced her.

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