In my last post I presented some evidence that people who do not identify strongly with ‘always behaving properly’ nevertheless tend to identify strongly with helping the people nearby if they feel a great deal of freedom and control of their own lives (i.e. if they have strong feelings of individual agency).
Does an identification with helping the people nearby have a positive effect on the social fabric or, to use an Australian expression, is it just about ‘looking after your mates’? In some contexts, helping the people nearby could even be corrupt behaviour. Fortunately, it is possible to test the relationship between identifying with helping the people nearby and attitudes toward corruption using data from the World Values Survey. This survey asks respondents to rate their view on whether it is ‘justifiable for a person to accept a bribe’ on a scale from 1 to 10, where a rating of 1 means that it is never justifiable and a rating of 10 means that it is always justifiable. (As before, I am basing my analysis on cross-tabulations for about 80,000 respondents in 57 countries from the 2005 Survey.)
The relationship between identifying with helping the people nearby and attitudes toward corruption is shown in the chart below. (The percentages shown in the chart add to 100 per cent along the horizontal axis.)
It is clear from the chart that people who identify with helping the people nearby have less tolerant attitudes toward corruption. Similar analyses show that these people are also less tolerant of social security and tax fraud, and fare evasion on public transport. It seems clear that the social fabic is stronger when a high proportion of the population identify with the importance of helping the people nearby.