Public sector employees take a lot of flak from their real world counterparts. They are alternately described as lazy, greedy, or altogether criminal. Much of it is deserved, of course, while some is based on broad stereotypes.
To determine if those drawn to government positions are actually any different than private sector workers, two universities joined together to conduct a groundbreaking study. Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania provided researchers who traveled to India in an effort to track individuals’ desire to work for the government.
The study produced data that might not come as a shock to those skeptical of the public sector. Apparently, students who cheat in a certain exercise express far more interest in government work than those who tell the truth.
Under the researchers’ guidelines, 600 students were told to roll a die and record their result. Each participant took 42 rolls after being told they would receive monetary compensation commensurate with the numbers they rolled.
Not surprisingly, many participants used the opportunity to lie about their results and claim a larger payout. In fact, more than one in three recorded results that were determined to statistically place them in the top one percent.
Of those suspected of cheating, the study found there was a 6.3 percent greater likelihood they would seek a job in the public sector. Though this research took place in India, the U.S. and other nations have certainly had their share of corruption among government employees. One might conclude an environment conducive to such misdeeds would have a special appeal to cheaters no matter their home country.
Another test conducted in the same study found those willing to lie about charitable donations are similarly more inclined to work for the government.
No matter their motivation, it is clear the public sector is an inviting environment for societal misfits and moral delinquents. While there are unquestionably dedicated, hardworking individuals in the government, those who make such work their life’s desire are often eager to take advantage of a mismanaged and bloated system.
–B. Christopher Agee
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