Column Date 2007-09-23

Honesty Day. A new idea for a holiday.

Don’t laugh – I know the odds are against it. But stranger things have happened.

For instance, the Ulyanovsk region in central Russia just celebrated its third annual “Sex Day”.

“Sex Day” is not a joke – it’s actually a Win-Win proposition. Faced with a falling population, the government has been encouraging its citizens to take the day off to have sex.

If you have a baby exactly nine months later, on June 12th (Russia’s National Day), the government will give you a free car, or a TV, or a selection of other gifts.

And if you don’t have a baby, well, at least you’ve had a fun-filled day off.

“Sex Day” is a simple, direct way to solve Ulyanovsk’s population problem (make baby, get SUV). And it seems to be working: the region’s birth rate rose 4.5% in the last year.

Which brings us to my idea of “Honesty Day”.

Why not have one day a year when it pays to come clean?

Why not a government-sponsored day when being honest brings you large cash prizes from Washington, immunity from lawsuits, and automatic enrollment in the witness protection program?

Imagine a politician saying: “I know the federal budget is completely out of whack, but I added an extra $250 million for a research facility in my home state to guarantee my re-election.”

Or a Human Resources director admitting: “Of course she’s incompetent. I hired her because the Sr. VP wanted a long-legged blond secretary. He’s competing with other division heads, you know.”

Perhaps even real estate brokers will feel compelled to be honest: “Your house is worth, at best, $500,000. But if telling you it’s worth $2 million will get me your listing...”

Or picture an art dealer saying: “Who in his right mind would want a painting created from elephant dung in his living room?”

With luck, we might even get a little honesty from defense contractors: “Of course we hired General Smileyface when he retired. He pushed billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts our way. That’s what friends are for, right?”

Of course, it will never happen. It’s been tried before.

Around 300 BC, Diogenes walked the streets of Athens with a lighted lantern, searching for an honest man. He never found one.

Of course, the population of Athens was a meager 30,000 back then.

If only the Greeks had invented “Sex Day”...

©2007 Peter Tannen