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Cheating a short cut to sucess in winner-take-all society
by Graeme J. Davidson,
29 October 2005

Why do we cheat? The answer is it’s a short cut to success in our winner-take-all society. As long as there’s a good chance we can get away with it, we cheat to get ahead and stay ahead.

...I heard a lawyer at a party saying, “I get my best ideas for clients when I’m in the shower. I enter it on their timesheets as ‘research’ and that’s how it’s charged.”
....We know that consultants often use templates, make a few minor changes, and then demand a whacking great fee as if they’d laboured at producing an original from scratch. The practice is efficient, but it’s a cheat’s way of taking your cash.
....Our New Zealand Prime Minister signed an artwork implying she was the artist, when she wasn’t
.... The conservative Maxim Institute lobbies journalists and politicians for a New Zealand that is, “A country of responsible, compassionate citizens of good character who demand excellence”. Yet, last week, its Director, former secondary school principal Bruce Logan, was accused of plagiarising material and passing it off as his own. In a qualified apology, Logan admitted, “there was some validity to this claim”. He then added this spin; “This has not, however, been done with any deliberate attempt to misquote or mislead”. Is Logan suggesting that cheating is okay if you have good intentions?
....Logan’s daughter, Alexis Stuart, lost her job as a columnist for The Press after a reader complained that she plagiarised from her father. That sent a shiver through journalists who sometimes ‘borrow’ ideas when under pressure.
....At least she didn’t fabricate her article, which was why the Herald on Sunday recently fired reporter John Manukia. Former reporter Jayson Blair dented the reputation of the New York Times for making up many of his stories and Pulitzer-Prize nominee Jack Kelley resigned from USA Today after he was caught inventing reports.
....There’s software to detect internet plagiarism but it takes time and effort to use and few bother. Therefore, you may even get away with downloading essays to pass off as your own on the ethics of cheating.
....And how many clergy lift their sermons from the internet without giving credit to the author? They say that quoting the source would interrupt the flow of their delivery, even though they do it with the bible.
....Hollywood is obsessed with stories of deceit. The storyline usually goes something like this: A nice person finds herself in a situation where it is difficult to tell the truth. Eventually the lie is uncovered; she's forgiven and benefits from the dishonesty. Everyone lives happily ever after.
This didn’t work for former MP Donna Awatere-Huata. However, if what happened to President Clinton after he said, "I did not have sex with that woman" is any indication, cheating can pay.
....Civil rights campaigner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has a public holiday named after him in the US. Yet, after King’s death scholars found he had plagiarised parts of his 1955 doctoral thesis A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman. Boston University now accepts that although there were ‘serious improprieties’, King’s copying was acceptable. I can’t help wondering whether they would allow any other student to crib up to 45 percent as King did. The FBI and King’s friends also claim he frequently cheated on his wife with campaign groupies.
....Social commentators say we live in a culture of deceit and that cheating is now our main ethical challenge. Research confirms this. Those who screen job applicants find that many inflate their accomplishments or lie on their résumés. A Josephson Institute of Ethics survey in the US found that 74 percent of students had cheated in an exam in the last year and those at religious high schools were more likely to cheat and lie than students at secular schools.
....Why do we cheat? The answer is it’s a short cut to success in our winner-take-all society. As long as there’s a good chance we can get away with it, we cheat to get ahead and stay ahead.
“Cheating can be very tempting. It becomes a secret weapon that really can get you ahead,” says David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. “Most people feel uncomfortable gaining an unfair advantage, but many will put aside their qualms if they are under enough financial pressure or if the carrot dangling before them is large enough. People are also more likely to set aside such qualms if society is giving them permission on a larger cultural level,” Callahan says.
....Cheating gives the cheater an unjust advantage and leads to the breakdown of trust, a cornerstone of society. And once trust goes, the only beneficiaries are auditors and those high-priced lawyers, who, even if they don’t charge for their showers, prosecute or defend those who cheat for their own advantage.




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