According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer released this month by Checkpoint Systems, employees in the U.S. steal from their employers at significantly higher rates than workers in other countries. The direct cost to businesses, as you can see in the diagram above: a staggering 16.6 billion dollars.
Most of this is taken in incremental amounts, by people who would be shocked if you questioned their character. Why is this number is so high? As far as comparing to other countries are concerned, it’s the same factor that anti-gun zealots refuse to acknowledge, and that Bernie Sanders can’t seem to grasp. Our country is not like other countries; we guarantee our citizens more freedom, for one thing, and freedom unavoidably means more freedom to do bad things as well as good. Our national character is not like other countries. Americans are not like other people.
As Ben Franklin says in “1776”:
“We’ve spawned a new race here, Mr. Dickinson—rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.”
That’s not all good, of course, especially the violent part. One of those unique American traits is a natural-born contempt for authority. That, in turn, helps stoke the tendency of some to defy authority with petty theft. Demagogues like Senator Sanders help pervert healthy disdain for authority into theft by using toxic and intentionally provocative metaphors for capitalism, just like Marx and Lenin. Most employees still won’t steal if they have been competently socialized in the home, the school, their peer group or the church. This is especially true of the first, and the last, once the most powerful force to discourage petty theft, is increasingly irrelevant. One of the three personal ethics tests, remember (the other two are “Does it feel right?” and “What if this were the headline in my home town newspaper?”), is “What would my mother (or father) think?” If the answer to that question regarding theft is, “Great! Hand it over kid, so I can buy some weed!”, you have your lifetime casual lawbreaker.
The other factor is that thieving employees thrive on rationalizations without realizing they are rationalizations, because nobody’s taught them. (Rationalizations should be taught in elementary school. It would bring down the employee theft totals and the shoplifting losses by billions.)
Here, for your reference and theirs, are the rationalizations employed by workplace thieves, culled from the handy Ethics Alarms list.
There are 32 of them.
1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it”
1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”
2. The “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse, or “They had it coming”
3. Consequentialism, or “It Worked Out for the Best”
6. (2) The Biblical Rationalizations, “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,”
7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse
8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)
10. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
11. (a) “I deserve this!” or “Just this once!”
13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
14. Self-validating Virtue
15. The Futility Illusion: “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”
17. Ethical Vigilantism
19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
21. Ethics Accounting (“I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”)
22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule”
31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing”
33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”
36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”
38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?”
41. The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is.”
42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”
44. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time”
48. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”
49. “Convenient Futility,” or “It wouldn’t have mattered if I had done the right thing.”
50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
51. The Hippie’s License, or “If it feels good, do it!” (“It’s natural”)