In his latest blog, Shaun looks at the role of honesty, following his relocation to Shropshire.
Moving to a small village in Shropshire recently, I was struck by the number of ‘honesty boxes’ – people charging for flowers, vegetables, eggs etc by leaving an unattended box at the front of their gardens and trusting people to leave the appropriate amount of money in return for what they take. It was a nice reminder that there are places where this still happens.
In turn, this got me thinking about the ‘price’ of honesty, and the role of honesty in society. Economically, for example, a high level of honesty and trust results in lower transactions costs. If you leave your produce at the end of your garden, there are no costs involved in setting up a shop, transporting goods to market or delivering them to customers.
Of course, for low value home grown produce, if people don’t leave any money in the honesty box, the seller isn’t left very badly off; they just didn’t make anything on the fruit and veg they had grown anyway. For higher value items, people are going to be much less likely to leave them out for passers-by to help themselves!
However, honesty and trust are symptoms of a society’s wider attitudes and therefore reflect how communities behave – whether in a village, a town or a country. A community that leaves out honesty boxes is a trusting one and studies show that more trusting societies perform better economically, as well delivering a better quality of life, reduced levels of crime etc for their citizens.
How often have we heard people hark back to the past when you could “leave your door open” without fear of been burgled? It’s a clichéd way of implying that the past was better because it was more trusting and honest.
Perhaps the point is better made when you think that the less trusting and honest a society is, the higher the social and economic costs – whether it is fear of walking down the street, or locking your wares away so that people can’t steal them. These days, I believe that not enough emphasis is put on trust and honesty – from politicians downwards – and society suffers because of it.
However, it was interesting to read recently that Richard Branson is going to allow his private staff to take as much holiday as they like, leaving it to their own integrity to decide how much time to take off and when. Hopefully this demonstrates the growing recognition in business that the more trust you place in people, the greater the rewards for the company and its staff.
The role of honesty and integrity in society is, of course, a matter of much debate and study. In this blog, I just wanted to get it off my chest that I think trust and integrity can bring many benefits and a more honest society is a more pleasant one to live in.
Now, what can I buy next time I go along the village high street?