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There exist ways of judging debt repayment in a nation and comparing them, but I know of no generalized index of honesty. It is said that people are the same everywhere but this just isn't true. Different cultures value repayment of debt differently. Some nations enforce repayment differently. One country
may have strict laws protecting the consumer from credit collection, another may throw the debtor to the wolves. One culture may value "wit" in the form of keeping anything you can and cheating people, another may value honesty in the repayment of every debt great or small. This is aside from enormously differing economic conditions and fiscal policies. A person with no credit history who has owed $50 for one month has a different chance of repaying that debt between France and China. And even between Paris and Viviers, France.
This index would help justify that difference. It would consist of a smoothed percentage by relative credit report, relative economic conditions (improving or declining economy for the borrower or company's economic class) and local area (say an arbitrary 100 kilometers for sufficient data) of how likely a debt is to be repaid.
Now we can properly judge the financial condition of an unbundled collection of debts and set interest rates accordingly. We can also better judge the strength of national currencies based on the qualities, not just quantities, of consumer debt.
National credit ratings
[Frankx, Sep 09 2021]
'Lost Wallet' Civic Honesty test
17,000 wallets dropped in 355 cities in 40 countries to see if they'd be returned [AusCan531, Sep 10 2021]
|The big commercial credit rating companies do
publish ratings for nations [link], but thats raw
probability of covering debt rather than
trustworthiness, so a bit of a blunt tool. Difficult
to evaluate honesty as a cultural metric though -
presumably it covers much more than just
commitment to repay debt.
Nice idea though [+]
|Transparency International already has a corruption index, which
might show a strong inverse correlation with the proposed
index. However, I think you might find a paradox of scale when
applying this index to the debts of individuals. I suspect (but
don't know how to prove) that cultures that are rated as highly
corrupt (and therefore unlikely to pay debts on an institutional
scale) have a strong sense of obligation within personal
networks ("clannishness"). So, a person in such a culture who
had borrowed from a friend, or a cousin, would be highly likely to
repay, even though, if the same person borrowed from an
international bank, on behalf of an organisation, they would be
likely to default.
|NPR conducted a 'Civic Honesty' test in 355 cities around the
world where they 'dropped' 17,000 wallets with varying
amounts of cash, to see if they were returned. The results
were surprising and enheartening. [link]
|That lost wallet experiment missed many possible explanations for the observed behavior, many not altruistic. A larger amount of money is more likely to have been reported and therefore a riskier steal. So is any amount of money as opposed to none. A developed nation is more likely to have police who have time to care about a lost wallet, and therefore again is a riskier steal. Different cultures have different focus of group affiliation. Nation, state, village, and family are primary focuses in different areas. Different cultures value money (and keys. And business cards) differently. In some countries you have to be careful which cash you carry. In some countries the local warlord will have your hand if you're caught. Many, many different sociological phenomena can lead to these differences, and it would take many wallet experiments to control for them. Sounds worth doing to me.