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Does the experience of the Grameen Bank prove that the percentage of the human race which is honest is about 99%?

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I have often thought that we all dwell on bad things too much. Time spent reflecting on the good things about life is refreshing and invigorating. My own assessment of the basic honesty of the homo sapiens is that something like 98% or 99% of people are essentially honest.

I have often introduced this concept into conversations in an attempt to help other to feel good about life.

I needed some evidence to support this view and have hit upon two stories. One is anecdotal but the other is well documented.

The anecdotal story concerns a guy who found that he had lost his wallet while travelling in the Kimberly. He thought he should report this to the police to satisfy his insurance company. He went to the Police Station in the next town he stopped in about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from where the wallet had last been seen. The policeman told him not to worry, he'd almost certainly get his wallet back. He asked the policeman how he came to that conclusion and was told that in all his dealings with the people in his area of responsibility he had found that 99% of the people were honest and would hand in to the police any wallet they found.

The documented story comes from Nobel Laureate, Muhummad Yunus. He has reported that the Grameen Bank, the formal realization of the micro-credit movement, has a bad debt rate of about 1%, far lower than that of any "normal" bank. Given that micro credit relies on the honour system to regulate repayments rather than legally enforceable contracts, this seems to show that people are naturally honest and the rate of dishonesty is of the order of 1%.

Created: 23/11/06 and last revised 17/7/07
Author: Robin Chalmers Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author
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