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The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead Paperback – Bargain Price, December 1, 2004

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Cheating, argues author David Callahan, is no longer the exclusive purview of lowlife criminals, slick hucksters, and shady characters with ace cards shoved in secretive places. Now everyone's doing it and because everyone sees everyone else doing it, they keep on doing it. Callahan says the trouble begins in America's brutally competitive economic climate, which rewards results and looks the other way when it comes to the ethical and even criminal transgressions of those who come out on the winning end. Certainly there is no shortage of examples of cheating from the business community, and Callahan nimbly dissects the dishonest actions of the usual suspects (Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing) to demonstrate how that same mentality extends out to our educational system, amateur and professional sports, the news media, and even the lives of common citizens who, while they would never think of themselves as being cheaters, are nevertheless inclined to commit the occasional act of beneficial fudging. And while honesty is a nice ideal, Callahan says that cheaters cheat because, contrary to oft-repeated axioms, cheaters win: the chances of being caught are shrinking as are the punishments meted out should one be nabbed, and the benefits of a successful cheat far outstrip any potential threat. Further, Callahan posits that otherwise upright folks who would not cheat are drawn into the practice out of fear that they simply won't be able to make it in modern society otherwise. There's a lot of material for Callahan to work with here, given that every instance of cheating is fair game as source material and is able to be used to construct a theory of epidemic. And the range of material is so broad and the basic argument ("we cheat more") so simple that The Cheating Culture feels a bit like a Newsweek trend piece writ extremely large. Still, it must be noted that Callahan really had all that material to work with and that fact alone is compelling evidence that his premise is dead on. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Newspapers have reported on many cases of corporate fraud at the highest executive levels in the past two years, but Callahan cites other instances of people going to often questionable lengths to succeed. It's estimated that half of all major league baseball players are taking steroids to enhance their strength and performance. Many attorneys regularly overstate their hours to stay competitive with their colleagues. To get into the right college, high schoolers will turn in papers written by tutors, while their parents shop for psychologists willing to diagnose a learning disability to gain extra time on the SAT. Callahan, director of public policy center Demos and frequent TV commentator, has a simple explanation for this proliferation of cheating. In a cutthroat economic climate, everybody wants to get ahead, and decades of deregulation have made it easy to bend the rules. He further argues that when the middle class sees wealthy cheaters get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, it inspires them to follow suit. A fairly obvious premise, to be sure, but the book's strength lies in tying together assorted detailed descriptions of cheating throughout the system and explaining the connections between disparate acts like r‚sum‚ inflation, tax evasion and illegal downloads. He offers straightforward, commonsensical solutions, including increased funding for federal enforcement agencies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (December 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030055
  • ASIN: B003IWYK7G
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

I recommend that this book be read together with John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and William Greider's, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. As a pre-amble, I would note that a Nobel Prize was given in the late 1990's to a man that demonstrates that trust lowers the cost of doing business. Morality matters--immorality imposes a pervasive sustained, insidious, long-term, and ultimately fatal cost on any community, any Republic, and that is the core message of this book that most reviewers seem to be missing.

Any student of national security can tell you that one of the most important sources of national power is the population, followed by the economy, natural resources, and then the more traditional sources of national power: diplomacy, military, law enforcement, and government policies generally.

What this author makes clear is that our population has become a cheating population, one that cheats in school, cheats their employer, and cheats their clients (lawyers, accountants, doctors, all cheating). Such a population is literally undermining national security by creating false values, and undermining true values.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Mullins on December 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
In today's society, steroid-enhanced sports figures cork their bats, while corporate executives cook their books. In the days after 9/11, banking institutions whose networking system crashed saw their clients draw out millions of dollars they did not own. Parents push to have their children wrongfully diagnosed with learning disorders so they can have extended time on tests. Lawyers exaggerate expense reports; doctors get kick-backs for promoting vitamins; and commission-based mechanics work to find expensive problems on well-running vehicles.

All of these issues are discussed in David Callahan's "The Cheating Culture", as he tries to explain the boom in recent years of Americans trying to get ahead in life by dishonest actions.

One would think this author would find much in common with Bill Bennett, who recently published a book on the moral collapse of America. But if Bennett's book speaks to conservatives, "The Cheating Culture" is meant for liberals.

The author believes our current culture developed its morality during the "me-first" decade of the 1980s. Capitalism, according to the author, removes the socialist notions of caring for the community and doing what is right, replacing them with a Darwinist desire to win at all costs. Add to the overwhelming desire to crush enemies in a capitalist world is the riches that await those who succeed and it is easy to see why people cork bats, inflate expense reports, etc.

So, who is right? Bennett or Callahan? I enjoyed both books and think both authors make many credible points. Reading both books will give a reader not only two different theories on the moral decline in America, but will also show some fundamental differences in the ways conservatives and liberals think and argue.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Cheating Culture describes an America where 74% of high school students have cheated on an exam, where parents pull strings to get their toddlers into the best pre-schools, and where it is standard practice to pad one's resume with non-existent degrees. Otherwise honest people under-report their taxes, splice into free cable TV, and over-report their insurance losses. Why do they do it?
David Callahan sees several reasons. One is that in the Winner-Take-All Society (brilliantly described by Robert Frank in his book of the same name), the rewards are huge. Another is that the risks are small -- even when people are caught cheating, there is little repurcussion. And in a society where so many are cheating, we are at a disadvantage if we don't cheat, too.
Most of the book is taken up with describing the (often fascinating) ways people cheat and what are the consequences, to the individual and to the community. When Callahan finally comes to what to do about this pervasive problem, he can only come up with rather mild suggestions. Parents should teach their children to do right, schools and businesses should conduct courses in ethics, the individual should "be a chump" and resist cheating and turn in anyone who does cheat.
This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine threatens a cheating Jerry by saying "Someday, something bad is gonna happen to you!" and Jerry shrugs her off with "No, I'm gonna be fine."
In a perfect world, things would even out, and cheaters would get their due. In the real world, Kenneth Lay gets to keep his mansion and may never go to jail.
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