Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Future, Global, Green, Meaning, Ramblings, social, Technology, Travel, Urban

What Percentage of the Population is Honest?

I love riding the metro system in LA. 

It may not be as efficient as many other metro systems in the country – but the spread of the Los Angeles metro area would require a massive upheaval of the city’s infrastructure to create a more efficient mass transit system.

(Aside: The people who whine about the Metro not taking you anywhere are the people who (1) have never tried to take the Metro anywhere or (2) refuse to consider riding a city bus (which will take you just about anywhere).

Unlike a lot of metro systems around the world, the LA metro rail works on the honor system. There are turnstyles in most stations, but they do not require a valid ticket to “unlock” – you can simply walk through them the whole time. There are occasionally county sheriff officers checking tickets when you exit the train, but it is more common that you simply experience an “honor system” – if you ride the metro, it’s expected that you pay for your trip.

Since I’ve been in LA (six years now!), there’s been a number of efforts to lock down the metro and require a valid pass before entry. Another effort is now underway. Read about it here.

I found this quote interesting:

“It’s impossible that in a system where there’s, practically speaking, no checking whether people paid their fare or not, that 97% would pay their fare,” [county supervisor and Metro board member Zev] Yaroslavsky said.

In other words, it’s impossible that 97% of the population is honest.


  • What do you think?

  • Is honesty an impossibility?

  • Is this symptomatic of a bigger reality in our culture’s understanding of ethics and what’s right and wrong?

  • Or is this just a story about trains?


2 thoughts on “What Percentage of the Population is Honest?

  1. I think that expecting 97% of the population is shooting pretty high! But, really, I think this is an economic issue–If an honor system actually saves money, then that’s the best system. It depends on if it’s worth it to pay for a more secure system that keeps people accountable or if the money spent on the system outweighs the amount lost from freeloaders in the current system.
    I’ve also noticed that, a lot of times, when people try to devise a system that keeps everyone accountable, it punishes the honest people (by costing them more in time or money) than the dishonest people. What I mean is that, even with a more secure system, some people will still cheat (although not as many), and that’s just one of those things we have to accept. We don’t have to like it–we just have to let it go–because it becomes impractical to spend the money to catch every crook.
    Thanks for the interesting post!


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