Canada markets closed
  • S&P/TSX

    20,461.93
    +60.44 (+0.30%)
     
  • S&P 500

    4,448.98
    +53.34 (+1.21%)
     
  • DOW

    34,764.82
    +506.50 (+1.48%)
     
  • CAD/USD

    0.7894
    -0.0008 (-0.11%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    73.42
    +0.12 (+0.16%)
     
  • BTC-CAD

    56,417.92
    +210.76 (+0.37%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,113.04
    +4.12 (+0.37%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,752.70
    +2.90 (+0.17%)
     
  • RUSSELL 2000

    2,259.04
    +40.48 (+1.82%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    1.4100
    +0.0740 (+5.54%)
     
  • NASDAQ futures

    15,304.50
    +1.00 (+0.01%)
     
  • VOLATILITY

    18.63
    -2.24 (-10.73%)
     
  • FTSE

    7,078.35
    -5.02 (-0.07%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    30,200.89
    +561.49 (+1.89%)
     
  • CAD/EUR

    0.6719
    -0.0008 (-0.12%)
     

Political corruption makes it more likely we’ll cheat at the checkout

·1 min read
<span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

It’s not just Covid that’s contagious – corruption is too. We’ve always known that if some coppers, politicians or border guards take bribes their colleagues follow suit. If everyone’s at it, people don’t want to be left out. While some benefit, this corruption has very high economic costs for society as a whole.

But the corruption is corrupting phenomenon goes further. New research shows that government corruption can actually make citizens more dishonest.

Examining the impact of Italian local government corruption scandals on its citizens, the authors use an ingenious data source to measure the public’s level of dishonesty: supermarket’s self-service checkouts. Supermarkets carry out random checks on customers who have scanned their own groceries, with more than 200,000 such audits allowing us to identify how widespread dishonesty is and, crucially, how it changes over time.

The researchers use this to show that in the aftermath of a corruption scandal appearing in the media, shoppers are 16 to 30% more likely to intentionally under-report the contents of their shopping trolley. That’s a big effect that is at its strongest for four days after a scandal breaks. Reassuringly, it weakens after that.

The increase in dishonesty seems to be driven by angry taxpayers. The logic appears to be: if the council is going to rip us off, we’re damn well going to rip Sainsbury’s off. Michelle Obama might go high when they go low, but the rest of us? Not so much.

Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting