Why people steal from their employers

Under capitalism, your personal prosperity is directly dependent on the prosperity of the business you work for. Under socialism, the prosperity of the business you work for is theft of your labour.

However, in a mixed economy and a society that hasn’t fully grasped the benefits of capitalism we must also factor-in moral equivocation and laziness. Therefore some employees like to redress the balance of poor pay and conditions by finding non-monetary compensation, for example stealing office supplies if they’re lazy. Others might be more greedy and actively swindle the company to “earn” more cash, for example if you see the till drawer left open and the barman appears to be flustered while trying to serve a lot of people quickly you know he’s thieving.

This problem affects all companies and at every level. Top directors being paid bonuses they haven’t earned or don’t deserve, still less bonuses which they are not contractually entitled to, are thieving from the company. Just like the dishonest barman only the scale is different. Under capitalism all this behaviour is corrupt but under socialism it’s honest because you’re just taking back what wasn’t the company’s in the first place. In so many ways socialism is a thieves’ charter.

Here is a fascinating insight into the process. Researchers at some top universities in America conducted a study of 392 restaurants in 39 states, before and after surveillance cameras were installed. You can read an article about it from the New York Times here: How Surveillance Changes Behavior: A Restaurant Workers Case Study

This is what I found the most interesting observation:

The impact, the researchers say, came not from firing workers engaged in theft, but mostly from their changed behavior. Knowing they were being monitored, the servers not only pulled back on any unethical practices, but also channeled their efforts into, say, prompting customers to have that dessert or a second beer, raising revenue for the restaurant and tips for themselves.

Remove the ability to steal, or increase the fear of being caught, and you don’t just reduce or eliminate theft, you actually give employees an incentive to play along with the system and boost their own earnings within it. They are focused on doing what’s good for the business. This would work equally well with top peoples’ salaries. Remove the ability to set their own pay and bonuses, or increase the fear of being caught cheating, and those running a business would focus on doing what’s good for the investors.

The moral of the story is, capitalism works when you give it a chance.

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