If I were an MP and I knew I could fiddle my expenses outrageously, and I knew most MPs saw it as normal behaviour, would I join in? Or would I resist the trend and keep to the straight and narrow?
If I were a high earner and I knew I could fiddle my taxes and not pay what I ought to pay, if I knew I could salt money away in a secret account, would I bury my scruples and scoff at the public interest?
I'm not likely to be in any such situation, given my humble employment, but I sometimes wonder if my self-righteous objections to such immorality are truly sincere.
After all, I'm corrupt enough when it comes to the petty everyday rules I happily cock a snook at - ignoring speed limits, dodging bus queues, embellishing my CV, squandering fossil fuels. Would it take very much to up the ante a notch or two, to be a bit more ambitious in my misdemeanours?
Actually I think it would seriously go against the grain. I'm not cut out for badness. I believe in social rules, I believe in personal responsibility, I believe in fairness and justice. Large-scale, flagrant screwing-the-system is not in my nature. I would feel too guilty, too selfish, too degenerate, too shifty. I would feel like the infamous used-car salesman. And how low-life is that?
No, I shall continue to look down my nose at those who are willingly corrupted, in the full knowledge that were I in their shoes I wouldn't be so decadent. I would be the steadfast goody-goody refusing to join in and despairing of the weak-willed suggestibility of the human race. I would sit tight and leave them to it.