2010 Archives

Why businessmen are more honest than preachers, politicians and professors


The following essay by Dwight R. Lee, the William J. O’Neil Professor of Global Markets and Freedom in SMU's Cox School of Business, is from the Winter 2010 edition of The Independent Review.

May 21, 2010

Notwithstanding regular reports of dishonest businessmen in the daily news, businessmen deserve more respect for their honesty than they receive. Granted, businessmen are not always as honest as we would like them to be, and some of them are simply crooked. The business community would certainly be a strange place for Diogenes to search for a completely honest man. But would his search prove more successful elsewhere? In considering the honesty of businessmen in our imperfect world, the relevant question is, compared to whom? So in making my case, I compare the honesty of businessmen with the honesty of preachers, politicians, and professors. I conclude that businessmen are, on average, the most honest (or least dishonest) of the bunch.

My case for businessmen’s relative honesty is not that they are more virtuous than preachers, politicians, and professors. Instead, the argument is based on the constraints on those under consideration who might seek to profit from dishonesty. Businessmen are more honest than preachers, politicians, and professors because they have the least to gain from dishonest claims about the benefits their products provide. . .

Read the full essay.

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