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Cheaters Always Win: The Story of America

Published Friday May 1, 2020

Author Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez

“Cheaters Always Win: The Story of America”
by J.M. Fenster
by Twelve
$28/272 pages

Honesty is the best policy, isn’t that what mama always said? Follow the rules. Keep on the straight-and-narrow, pay attention to whatever rules govern our society, and you’ll be fine. It seems like a good recipe for success, except that voluntary compliance is needed. There are always rule-rogues, and there are always people who protect cheaters to some degree, often through peer pressure.

It’s not true that “cheaters only cheat themselves,” says J.M. Fenster in her recent book, “Cheaters Always Win: The Story of America.” Cheaters always leave behind a victim and are basically thieves, whether they’re stealing business secrets, coveted jobs, better work conditions or a new love interest. Covering for a cheater is almost tantamount to covering up a crime, however minor.

Fenster says that cheating at golf is interesting because it requires complicity.

Cheating on a family member or close business associate is a devastation of a “special sort.” Even some researchers who study cheating appear to have massaged the data.

Fenster says the main reason for not cheating seems to be the fear of getting caught. Religious teachings and morality have some factor in honesty, as does a lack of opportunity and laziness: cheating, skulking and keeping a story straight is hard work.

As is making sense of this book. Readers will find takeaways on why people cheat and why they don’t, but those psychologically-fascinating, insightful, and helpful nuggets are buried in so much head-scratching snippets of ideas that you could easily miss them. For most readers, “Cheaters Always Win” is skippable, to be honest.

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