Tag Archives: charity

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 2)

Money-box-gift

As promised, here are some proposed lines regarding the ethics quiz on the lottery-enriched brother and whether his financially-challenged sibling  should ask for a cut—and had a right to expect one. (Part 1 of the “Further Thoughts” is here)

All of the following assume that the lottery-winner does not have a personal emergency or crisis of his own that would require him to spend all or most of the money.

1. The wealthy brother is ethically obligated to offer financial assistance, if he can afford it without excessive hardship, without being asked, if his brother or his brother’s family is facing a health crisis of other catastrophe.

This is true regardless of whether his new financial resources come from luck, planning, work or skill, and regardless of how much money he has. Offering a loan rather than a gift is still fair and ethical. Charging interest under these circumstances is not, unless the poor brother has a record of not paying back earlier loans.

Possible exceptions: Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Character, Family, Finance, Love, Quizzes, Romance and Relationships

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 1)

lottery win

The last ethics quiz posed the questions of whether a financially struggling (that is, like most people) brother [NOTE: In the earlier version, I incorrectly said they were twins. Why, I don’t know, except that it makes the set up more perfect. I apologize for the error. It didn’t change the issues any, or the commentary.]  in his Sixties should suggest to his lottery-winning brother, now 50 million dollars richer, that he could use some of that excess cash…and whether the brother would be unethical to refuse.

The more I think about it, the more I am sure that Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe was answering a fictional hypothetical carefully devised to coax out the answer it did. I write these things for a living, and the brothers element is suspicious. The idea was to emphasize the perception of unfairness: here we have two genetically similar human beings raised with the same advantages and disadvantages, not just metaphorically “created equal” but equal in fact. How cruel and unfair that, in “Dear Prudence’s” words,  “your brother-in-law, through no effort of his own—save the purchase of a quick pick—was smiled on by fate and now enjoys luxuriant leisure. Especially since the two brothers suffered from a start in life that would have crushed many, it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs.”

I didn’t exactly give my preferred answer to the quiz, but I did suggest that Yoff’e’s answer and the orientation of the questioner were redolent of the prevailing ethos of the political left. This was met with some complaining in the comments, but come on: “it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs” would be a great Occupy Wall Street poster if it wasn’t so long, and it perfectly states the ethically dubious mantra we can expect from Bernie, Hillary or Elizabeth and probably any other Democrat who is selected to be called “a lightweight” and “a loser” by Republican nominee Trump.  In fact, I think this hypothetical would be a great debate question….and better yet if we explore some of the  variables.

For example: Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law

_rich_man_poor_man“Dear Prudence” (a.k.a Emily Yoffe), my least favorite advice columnist (who answers weird questions from weird people at Slate), received an ethics quiz worthy query from a woman whose husband has had some business reverses and now, as he near retirement age, is looking at two jobs and tarnished golden years without a pension or vacations. Meanwhile, her husband’s brother (let’s assume this is true: it sounds like a hypothetical to me) won 50 million bucks in the lottery a few years ago, and is having a ball. The two brothers are on good terms and speak often. She asks,

“What I don’t understand is how he can stand to see his little brother so stressed and working so hard while he has more money than he could spend in a dozen lifetimes. Obviously he is under no obligation, but he does not seem to realize how hard it is to see how he spends his money on travel and amusements. I think he should help his brother out. What do you think?”

Prudence  thinks the poor brother should ask the rich brother for money, and that if he won’t, the wife of the poor brother should: Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Family, Finance, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Quizzes

Ethics Hero Sighting At The 7-11

7 eleven

They are out there—just good, kind, ethical people who quietly do what they can to make society a little better whenever they can.

I was just at a 7-11 in Alexandria, Virginia. I was sitting in the car, waiting for Grace to pick up some things, along with Rugby, who loves sticking his head out the window and flirting with people going in and out of the store. He’s shameless and adorable, and almost every time we go there one or more shoppers will come over to the car, pat him and talk with him…and sometimes even me.

As I waited, I noticed a grim, middle-aged African American man standing quietly to the side of the store front, apparently asking people for spare change as they left the 7-11. He wasn’t having much luck. Then an SUV pulled up by my car, and a jolly, pudgy, smiley guy with curly gray hair and wearing  baggy shorts, with a loud, boisterous manner, got out. He immediately greeted Rugby, asking his name, scratching him behind the ears. “Does he have water?” he asked. I explained that we were just minutes from home. “Bye, Rugby!” he shouted, and started to enter the store.

I saw him stop as he opened the door and eye the other man. “Hi, brother!” he said loudly. “How are you doing?”

“Not too good,” was the soft reply.

“Really? Hey, come on in,” the curly haired man beckoned. The sad-looking black man followed him into the store. Grace returned, but I lingered in the parking space a bit. Sure enough, the man who had been asking for change emerged a few minutes later carrying a plastic bag that held a hot dog, a bottle of coke and some other items.

And he didn’t look quite so grim.

Nice.

In fact, perfect.

They are out there, all right.

There is hope.

28 Comments

Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Heroes, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Just In Time For Christmas, Here Are All The Bad Arguments And Rationalizations Against Tipping So You Can Feel Self-Righteous About Being A Scrooge

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

Vox has published an entertaining screed against tipping, massing all the contradictory, facile rationalizations and faulty arguments against demonstrating one’s gratitude when someone serves you well. This is Vox, remember—Ezra Klein’s uber-progressive website with an agenda. Think about what the alternative to tipping is, and where the critics of tipping are going with these claims. Hint 1: It has nothing to do with democracy or individualism. Hint 2: The piece argues that tipping is classist, racist, sexist, “lookist”…the works.

The full illogical, ethically confused character of this junk has to be read to be fully appreciated, but here is a quick overview:

1. Hoary old quotes. There are these, for example:

English author Lynne Truss on visiting New York: “In this great financial capital … tips are not niceties: give a ‘thank you’ that isn’t green and foldable and you are actively starving someone’s children.” No, Lynne, you’re being cheap, that’s all.

The Village Voice’s Foster Kamer: “It reinforces an economically and socially dangerous status quo, while buttressing a functional aristocracy.”   Ah. You see, if lower paid service professions are treated like robots and underpaid, they will rise up and overturn this monstrosity called capitalism.

 Michael Lewis: “I feel we are creeping slowly toward a kind of baksheesh economy in which everyone expects to be showered with coins simply for doing what they’ve already been paid to do.” Who is being “showered with coins?”

2. “Tipping lets employers off the hook.” Translation: It gets in the way of the progressive “living wage” campaign. Mandatory salary levels drive businesses out of business and reduce jobs. Want to see all restaurants go to the iPad, self-ordering, system running rampant at airport restaurants—and no, I don’t tip a runner who just carried my food to the table—by all means, force restaurants to pay “a living wage.”

3.  “Tipping is undemocratic.” This is the George Orwell, “Peace is War” argument. The government should stop me from giving my money to whoever I want in the name of democracy. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Harvard Law Student’s Formula For An Ethical Life

Yes, I hate my job, and yes, my clients are the scum of the Earth, and yes, my life sucks. But think of all the kids I can help get de-wormed!

Yes, I hate my job, and yes, my clients are the scum of the Earth, and yes, my life sucks. But think of all the kids I can help get de-wormed!

When I heard about the Harvard Law Record’s essay by law student Bill Barlow titled “Want To Save The World? Do Biglaw,” I mistakenly  assumed that he had made a persuasive, or at least coherent, utilitarian argument. After all, some fairly distinguished blogs took notice, and set about rebutting him. I was shocked when I actually read the piece. From what I can tell, Barlow understands nothing he was writing about—not the profession of law, not charity, not careers, not values, not law firms, not ethics, not money, not life. Why is someone who thinks like this in law school? What are law schools accepting people capable of writing this? Why is Harvard allowing someone this naive and shallow to display a Harvard degree?

This is literally all there is of substance to the article:

“So there you have it—be a corporate lawyer, donate 25% of your post tax income to charity, and save 150 lives a year, or de-worm 25,000 kids.  Alternatively, go into Public Interest, Government, or Academia, and feel warm and fuzzy about yourself.  Sadly, when people at this school talk about public service, they mean the latter, rather than the former.  If only people applied the same amount of cognitive skill used in just one LSAT logic game to the most critical question of what to do with their law degree, hundreds of lives could be saved.”

Ugh. Where to begin? Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Professions, Workplace

The Ethics Scrooge On The Starbucks Pay-It-Forward Ponzi Scheme

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ethics Scrooge here.

If you think I’m going to get all misty eyed about the “random acts of kindness” fun and games Florida Starbucks customers have been amusing themselves with lately,  you are sadly mistaken.

The happy-talk story of the week—and I admit, the nation needed one—concerned a St. Petersburg, Florida Starbucks where an early morning customer at the drive-through window decided to “pay it forward” and buy coffee for the next person in line.That customer emulated the spirit of the Kevin Spacey weepie,  and bought a drink for the next person in line at the drive-through, and so it continued throughout the day, with 378 customers purchasing drinks for the strangers in line behind them, a so-called altruism chain that lasted 11 hours.

Awww. Continue reading

86 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee