The Spectacle Blog

D.C.: Where Honesty Goes to Die

By on 7.30.13 | 3:14PM

In a nationwide honesty study, D.C. came in last. The beverage company Honest Tea set up an unmanned tea stand in 61 locations across the United States this month. The stand prompted people to pay $1 for the beverage in accordance with the honor system. Honest Tea recorded the results including information about the participants’ features.

D.C. is characterized by its “wonky aggressiveness” and consists of fast-moving, get-ahead individuals who have come from all over the United States for the express purpose of furthering their careers. And then there are the politicians. Socrates reflects on the incompatibility of honesty and political survival: “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” Anyone who has seen the Netflix original series House of Cards will understand. 

D.C.’s growth over the years is largely due to the expansion of the federal government. Population booms occurred following FDR’s New Deal and World War II, both of which resulted in the expansion of bureaucracy and the number of federal employees. The city is also built on the backs of its copious commuters. During the workweek, D.C.’s population nearly doubles with commuters from Maryland and Virginia. These industrious people have quite literally distanced themselves from D.C.'s woes, many of them electing for security and community over the costly inter-city alternative.

In addition to the high concentration of government employees, there are the lobbyists, lawyers, journalists, consultants, and advertising types—professions not frequently associated with honesty or integrity. Travel + Leisure recently rated D.C. as the third rudest city in the U.S.

The Honest Tea study found that 100 percent of people in Alabama and Hawaii paid for their tea, whereas 85 percent paid in West Virginia and only 80 percent of people paid in D.C. Poor West Virginia seems to hover near the bottom of every chart except perhaps that for “most wild."  

The results also determined that people in groups tend to be more honest than individuals. Furthermore, women are slightly more honest than men and people with longer hair were more honest than those with shorter cuts.

To add insult to injustice, Seth Goldman, the co-founder of Honest Tea, reported his bike stolen from the D.C. location last week. Goldman reported leaving the bike locked at the Bethesda Metro stop, which is technically in Maryland, but is part of the D.C. metro area. The author of this post had her bike seat stolen in Alexandria at the King Street Metro stop, another characteristic site of the D.C. sprawl. It seems that discourteousness does not stop at the city border.

Despite the incident, Goldman is content with the results: “Even though my bicycle was stolen the same day as our D.C. experiment, it’s reassuring to know that (on average) 92 percent of Americans will do the right thing even when it seems no one is watching.”

As George Washington knows, whether one is guilty of cutting down a cherry tree or of unconsciously fostering a negative urban culture, admitting one's wrongdoing is the first step to recovery. Stay Classy, D.C.

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