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.
- If the crisis was triggered by criminal or irresponsible conduct on the part of the poorer brother.
- If the crisis is a repeat of an earlier one that the rich brother responded to, and the poor brother is accountable for letting it occur again.
- If a previous crisis prompted a gift or loan by the rich brother and the money was misused or wasted.
- If a non-relative or other individual of equal or greater importance to the rich brother requires financial assistance, and assisting both the brother and the other individual is not possible without unreasonable hardship to the rich brother of his family.
2. The rich brother is obviously obligated to volunteer financial assistance if the poor brother provided extraordinary assistance, financial or otherwise, when the rich brother was facing a previous crisis or asked for help. He is similarly obligated if he needs to make amends for a substantial wrong done to the brother that had negative financial circumstances, or that only be fairly compensated with a transfer of wealth.
3. It is reasonable and ethical for the poor brother to ask for financial assistance if the threat to him or his family is dire, if the rich bother is not aware of it, or if a formal request would be expected based on the relationship.
- If the poor brother is aware that the rich brother is receiving other requests from family or friends.
4. Assuming that the expectation of financial assistance is triggered by a windfall (inheritance, buried treasure), sudden success ( Microsoft stock options), a huge salary increase (becoming a mega-law firm partner) or luck (the lottery), the lowest amount that allows a reasonable expectation of sharing the wealth is…I have no idea.
Let’s vote on it:
5. Does it ever matter how the richer brother came to get rich, assuming the manner was legal and did not involve deliberately harming the poor brother or his own financial opportunities ?