2 February 2012

If New Zealanders are anything like the British, the likelihood is that we are experiencing an “integrity crisis”. An academic suggests such a crisis may be afflicting the United Kingdom. The possibility is that we are become increasingly dishonest and don’t find lying as unacceptable as we used to. The younger we are the more dishonest we are likely to be. Survey findings indicate that the British have a growing dislike of benefit fraudsters but are less concerned about extramarital affairs, taking drugs, drinking and driving, handling stolen property and keeping money found in the street. This decline in personal integrity may reflect a paucity of role models.

Personal integrity is critical to the health of society according to the Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity.

The Independent suggests that “Scandals surrounding MPs’ expenses, greedy bankers, bribes to policemen, dodgy journalism, and football finance have raised question after question about integrity in public life. So it can hardly be a surprise to discover that low-level dishonesty among ordinary people has been on the rise, too.”

“Corruption neither filters down from the top of society, nor rises up from the bottom,… It is a cultural growth which spreads with the warp and weft through the whole social tapestry. As a result, we are all more likely to dodge taxes, keep money we find in the street, or fail to leave a note after damaging a parked car. Women, it seems, may have slightly more integrity than men; but social class and occupation do not appear to have any significant effect on honesty.”

“What the evidence from the Centre for the Study of Integrity survey reveals is that it is no good expecting change at the top unless we are all prepared to change our behaviour, too.”

The US National Business Ethics Survey published last month predicts that there will be a growing deterioration in workplace ethics. Perhaps that will happen here also.