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Being honest and fair has disadvantages in the real world. A person who scrupulously obeys the law will soon learn that many people around them do not. This becomes very obvious when the traffic signs are clearly posted on an arterial street as 25 MPH and the average speed that people are going is 35 MPH, and where there are no cross streets for three blocks the speeds will briefly push 45 MPH. Obviously, there are rarely accidents or people would go slower, but they are clearly in violation of the  posted law. What’s going on?

Perhaps the average driver is simply averaging the worth of their time versus the cost of traffic tickets and what they estimate to be the additional expenses of automobile repairs from accidents. When there are large numbers of people routinely driving on given streets that may, in fact, be a realistic assessment of the true costs on that street.

But, to go back to my original problem, being perfectly obedient to the law is counterproductive because every moment of obedience has a personal economic cost and an emotional one too. The economic cost is that time is wasted relative to other people who get ahead. They get an unfair advantage in life because they cheat.

The automotive example doesn’t matter much, but it is easy to observe and to write about. However, it is probable that people who do not obey the clearly posted traffic laws do not obey the other laws of the land or those of interpersonal civility either. A person who cheats at a 35 to 25 ratio is gaining about a 30% advantage in all of their interpersonal relations. That makes a huge difference because it is cumulative, and it is super cumulative if they find ways to invest that 30% advantage in such a way that it grows by itself. That is, if they live within the normal means and put the remainder of their ill-gotten surplus into something that somehow gains in value.

This same kind of advantage may go far beyond the economic transaction concept that I have been using here to illustrate the idea. Also, there may be no downside to behaving in the mildly criminal way because there is rarely any punishment for behaving a little beyond the law, and there is no social punishment either because everyone else is doing it and therefore it is not only tolerated, it is expected.

Am I a fool for being scrupulously honest and fair with other people?

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