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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Big surprise: College students who cheat more likely to seek government jobs

In an interesting revelation about the “chicken or the egg” scenario of corruption in government, a study has uncovered that college students who cheat are more likely to be interested in obtaining a government job after graduation. So does political power corrupt people, or is it actually that people who are morally corrupt seek power?

The study, produced by Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, focused on hundreds of college students in Bangalore, India. Students were allowed to roll a die privately and were promised more pay for more high numbers rolled. Of course, it’s impossible to say which students actually lied, but it’s safe to guess based on the averages likely to come up in random rolling. The students with suspiciously high numbers of fives or sixes were about 7 percent more likely to want a government job.

The study also asserts that “cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials.” Government nurses were also subjected to the dice test, and those who likely cheated were found to be 7 percent more likely to be fraudulently absent from their jobs while still getting paid.

Though the dice test isn’t a perfect predictor of who is honest and who isn’t, the correlation is real and extremely telling. Corruption in government is so rampant not because of the nature of government, but the nature of those who take interest in it.

It stands to reason that these people who cheated did so because they feel entitled, smarter than those around them and as though they can get away with doing the wrong thing. People like this seek positions of power because they feel that they deserve it and that it is rightly theirs. This is exactly the problem, because government’s focus must remain on helping the public. Unfortunately, more people who are out to help themselves are wanting these jobs and taking them from those who are truly altruistic and just.

According to Emily Reyes of the LA Times, the results suggest “that one of the contributing forces behind government corruption could be who gets into government work in the first place.” For instance, “if people have the view that jobs in government are corrupt, people who are honest might not want to get into that system,” said Rema Hanna, an associate professor at Harvard. So not only are dishonest people seeking power, but they may also be discouraging trustworthy people from entering the system and making much-needed changes that are in the best interest of constituents.

Transparency International conducts a worldwide ranking of governmental corruption each year. Countries are ranked from 1-100, with 100 being perfectly clean and 1 being totally corrupt. In 2012, India, the focus of this study, earned a dreadful 36, so clearly this is a particular problem for them. The U.S. received a respectable 73, so while we’re certainly not the worst, we’re also far from the best.

The only way the U.S. can improve upon national transparency and, by extension, become a better place to live for its citizens is to recruit good people to run the country and oust those leaders who are undeserving of their power.

Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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