The practice of honesty has never been more necessary than it is now. Why should our public servants, responsible persons in business, commerce and industry, and everyone else practise honesty? Can every normal person effectively practise honesty irrespective of their social and economic standing? What are the benefits of practising honesty?
Honesty should be practised because it is necessary for the enjoyment of fairness by all parties equally, who are committed in any transaction involving the exchange of property or the offer or use of services.
Yes, every normal person can effectively practise honesty irrespective of their social and economic standing. Normal persons who do not practise honesty choose not to practise it.
The benefits of practising honesty fall within a wide range. Some of these benefits have national social and economic implications; and some are more private and personal in nature. Some of these benefits are mentioned below in more detail.
Those who are in public life, or hold responsible positions in business, commerce and industry should be very careful to practise honesty in their respective fields.
The practice of honesty as private citizens is important for the reasons mentioned above, and because this is the pool from which public servants and those in responsible positions in the private sector are drawn. At the private level, we have all, at some time, experienced a sense of deprivation of justice and property at the hands of dishonest persons. Petty thieves, muggers and burglars also remind us of the need for honesty in private life.
The benefits of practicing honesty include: Fairness: The practice of honesty ensures fairness of behaviour in situations which involve: the collection, storage, or distribution of goods, and the provision of or the benefitting from services.
Example: An international lending institution once said that a certain kleptocratic country could repay its national debt in full, if its leaders returned the country’s money that they stole and deposited overseas.
Under colonial rule, the country was well run and had a very promising economy. Following independence, the country became a notorious kleptocracy. This resulted in its having to incur a huge national debt which unfairly fell on the backs of the mass of the people.
During this period, the cost of living increased greatly and the standard of living decreased to an even greater extent correspondingly, among the mass of the people. The small ruling elite and their senior civil service supporters enjoyed a degree of unfair opulence at the cost of the unfair suffering of the rest of the population.
Economic prosperity: The practice of honesty in situations involving economic activity contributes to the economic prosperity of those involved by allowing them full access to their fair share of goods and services. The relationship between honesty and economic prosperity is well known but often overlooked for the sake of expediency. The story that is mentioned after the word “Example” above, indicates some of the economic deprivation that can result from the absence of honesty in public life.
The connection between financial dishonesty and failure at the micro economic level is also well known. Most of us know of a case where a business failed due to the absence of the practice of honesty in some aspect of its financial activity. Such failure to practice honesty has resulted in instances of investors loosing large sums of money and experiencing financial ruin.
Political stability: The practice of honesty in the political economy helps to prevent persons from being unfairly deprived of their fair share of opportunity for socio-economic advancement. It also helps to allow them full access to their fair share of goods and services, according to the capacity of the economy to produce them. These conditions foster a sense of understanding of and sympathy with the efforts of those in power. This in turn helps prevent the growth of dissent, social unrest and political disruptiveness.
Spiritual growth: Constant practice of honesty, which is the eighth commandment in the Bible, as well as the practice of the other nine commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), will contribute greatly to our spiritual growth and development.
Honesty always serves the fair advantage of all concerned. Dishonesty always serves the unfair advantage of the few and the unfair disadvantage of the many. The choice is clear whenever there is a requirement to choose between honesty and dishonesty by persons in the public sector, those in responsible positions in the private sector, and private citizens.
By Edward Fagan