This is a true story about the bagel. In the 1980s, the United States had an economist named Paul Federman who led a research institute that analyzed weapons spending for the US Navy. The Institute’s income comes from a variety of research contracts. Every time a research contract is awarded, Federman will always buy some bread rolls for everyone, as a reward.
Later, Federman gradually became a habit, and every Friday, he put a basket of bagels in the office for everyone to eat. The employees of other units in the office building knew that they had come over and took a few bagels when things were fine. The basket quickly bottomed out. Federman had to buy more at the next time, and at most he had to buy more than 100 bagels a week.
In this way, Federman felt that it was not worthwhile. In order to recover the cost of buying the bagel, he placed an empty basket for the money next to the bread basket with the suggested price. As a result, this unguarded collection basket recovered 95% of the bread money. Federman is very happy and thinks that he has verified that people can pass moral self-discipline. As for the 5% that has not been recovered, he believes that only some people have not paid for it.
Later, Federman decided to quit the leadership position of the Institute, specializing in the sale of bagels. Federman drove around the office buildings in Washington, and used a very simple way to solicit business: early in the morning, he put the bagels and a basket for cash in different companies’ food, and waited until after lunch. Come back to withdraw money and the remaining bagels.
His economist friends think he is crazy, because according to the “economic man”, people will certainly steal the bagels, he will lose money. However, Federman himself is very confident and has done it according to his own methods. To the surprise of friends, although Federman did not recover much of the money in the institute, it can reach 87%. A few years later, Federman sent 8,400 bagels to 140 companies a week. He earned as much money as he did when he was an analyst.
While selling the bagels, Federman did not forget his own economist. He used his business as an economic experiment to record every piece of data in detail. Federman found out. By measuring the difference between the actual income and the sale of the bagel receivables, he can well examine the customer’s honesty. Will they steal the bagel? What factors determine that some people are white, some people pay, and some companies are more honest than others?
The data shows that people in small companies are more honest than people in big companies. A small company with only a few dozen employees usually pays 3 to 5 percentage points more than a large company with hundreds of people. This is somewhat out of Federman’s expectation, because he thinks that the bigger the company, the more people will be surrounded by the bread basket, and more witnesses will force you to throw money into the cash box. However, this is not the case. In a smaller group, if you do a trivial thing, you will know it as soon as possible, so it will prompt you to be cautious. And in a big company, even if you don’t give money with a bagel, who knows who you are? This principle can also be applied to society. The crime rate in rural areas is much lower than that in cities. This is largely because the crimes in rural areas are more likely to be known to the neighbors in the villages. This is the impact of the environment on people’s morality.
Based on observations, Federman also believes that morale is a very important factor. An employee who loves work and likes the boss will be more honest. As for inside a company, Federman believes that the higher the level of people, the more white eating.
He used to send bread to a company scattered on three floors. The top level is the management and the downstairs are the sales, service and administrative employees. The money received downstairs is obviously more than the upstairs. Federman suspects that because these management personnel have excessive control desires, it is prone to dishonest behavior. However, some people have said harshly that perhaps dishonesty is the reason why these people are crowded into management.
The data also reflects the individual’s mood and also affects honesty. For example, the weather is a major factor. Good weather can make people pay a good price. Bad weather, such as when it rains, people take it.
The most interesting thing is that festivals also affect people’s pay, some festivals make people worse, and some festivals let people learn. The percentage of payments in the week of Christmas dropped by 2%, and Thanksgiving was not good. Valentine’s Day was not good. Good festivals include July 4th (American Independence Day), Labor Day, and Columbus Day. When the “9.11” terrorist attack occurred, people performed quite well. What is the difference between these festivals or anniversaries? Federman found that stealing fewer holidays is a day of glory. Theft of more programs is a day full of anxiety and full of expectations for those who love.
There are environmental factors that affect people’s honesty, as well as emotional factors, but what makes Federman most excited is that he finds out why people are not honest, but people are still able to remain honest under the temptation of interest. Yes, some people steal bread from him, but most people don’t eat it even when no one else is present, or when it’s raining and Christmas.
Glaucon, a student of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, once described a story in which a straight and pure shepherd got a giant ring in the hole and has the ability to stealth. In the absence of anyone to monitor, the original honest shepherd stole the jewels, tempted the queen and killed the king. The story raises a moral question: Can anyone resist the temptation of evil, especially when he knows that these behaviors are not noticeable?
Federman found the answer and people can be honest. At least on the bagel issue, he has an 87% confidence.