Sunday, June 22, 2003

Local Voices: Ranking our rank behavior

We asked our Local Voices panelists this question: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst kind of rule-breaking, how would you rank each of the following, and explain your answer.

A. Fudging on your resume to make you more marketable to a potential employer.

B. Lying about your golf score.

C. Taking someone you're attracted to out to lunch, but not telling your spouse.

D. Cheating on your taxes.

The responses we received:

Eric McDaniel, student, Bond Hill:

A. Resume - In my opinion it would be wrong to overstate your degrees and training but not wrong to omit some of your past employers or make a change in the dates of your employment to make your resume flow more smoothly.

B. Golf score - Since a major portion of the game is built on trust of players to keep score and be truthful about their score it would be a breach of trust lie.

C. Lunch - Since when did being tempted by someone or something mean that you've cheated? I don't think so. However, if that lunch moved into a weekend trip then that would be cheating.

D. Taxes - Taxes are not to be cheated on at all, if only because the government will put someone behind bars if they find out. Employers, friends, and your other half may be upset with you but only the government can take away your freedom.

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc, author, Greenhills:

I really struggled with ranking these scenarios.

At first I considered ranking them in order of how many people the lies would hurt, which would mean I'd rank cheating on taxes first, followed by flirting with the idea of adultery, fudging on a resume, and lying about a golf score.

But then I thought about the way that we, as a culture have moved away from the idea of absolutes, and find ourselves in a place where everything is relative.

In most cases, that means relative to how it affects "me."

I believe that's why we're reading, on a daily basis, about high-profile people who have been caught cheating.

As a Christian, I've been raised to believe that a lie is a lie - a little white lie is just as wrong as a big whopper of a lie.

We all mess up - we all lie.

But the idea is to keep on trying to do right, in the little things as well as the big things - whether it's telling the truth about your golf score or filling out your income tax forms.

Kurt Borne, software consultant, Independence, Ky.:

A. Resume - 10. This is very, very bad, because primarily you are lying about who you are in general. Your whole life would be a lie, essentially, if you did get a job based on a phony resume. Worse yet, you probably then have stolen the job from a truly qualified candidate, and negatively affected someone's rightful employment opportunity.

B. Golf score - 2. Assuming you are an amateur golfer, I rate this as a "white lie," since no one is hurt by it. However, anyone who does this is in my mind a true loser. What kind of insecure character are you, if you feel you have to create such lies? C. Lunch - 10. You are simply lying to your spouse about something that could potentially lead to a ruined marriage, and even worse if you have children. The clear danger and risk of what this could lead to just makes it very bad overall in my book.

D. Taxes - 5.5. This is a toughy. Cheating on one's taxes is wrong at face value. However, I would ask, "how wrong is it when the government takes from hard-working folks in its biased fashion, then wastes much of that, and very often uses it for vote-getting projects designed for the re-election hopes of officeholders?" I really almost applaud the tax cheat. I know Christ said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." But when Caesar is, at worst, a corruptible prostitute for pork, and, at best, a money pit, I just have trouble condemning anyone who cheats on their taxes.

Jerry Blanken, photographer, Hyde Park:

I give all lies a 10. What difference the reason, "once a liar; always a liar." When a person starts lying there are no limits, and who wants to converse with a liar? If you can't believe what a person tells you, why talk to them. For example, I wouldn't believe Bill Clinton if he told me it was daytime or nighttime.

Scott Knox, attorney, Clifton:

A. Resume - 7

B. Golf score - 5

C. Lunch - 6

D. Taxes - 8

Russell Thomas, government worker, Melbourne, Ky.:

A. Resume - Is the lie about something important to the job, or is it something peripheral? Lying about your educational level would be a 10. Lying about being a par golfer would rate a 1.

B. Golf score - If we assume the lie is to cheat someone else out of a prize, even if it is just bragging rights, then I give it a 10.

C. Lunch - It really depends on your intentions. A little lunch and conversation, call it a 5. Step one in your mating ritual? Definite 10.

D. Taxes - There are a lot of ways to cheat on taxes, and a lot of taxes to cheat on.

Buying liquor and tobacco in Kentucky to avoid paying the Ohio tax is a common one. Hiding income and "creating" phantom children are just two ways to cheat on an income tax. Both cost the state operating funds, increasing the costs to other individuals. It's really hard to consider cheating the government wrong, but it is. 10.

Cheating is both lying and stealing at the same time.

Even if the only person you're lying to, and stealing from, is yourself, there will be a piper to pay.

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