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

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

Ethics Dunce (Advice Columnist Division): “Dear Prudence”

Hmmm...refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Hmmm…refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Here is my guess: nearly 100% of all people with two ethics alarms to rub together would be able to answer this question correctly, responsibly, and within about 1o seconds of thought. The question, in essence:

‘I worked as a nanny for a couple I didn’t like, so to make myself feel better, I secretly poisoned them. Now I work elsewhere, and I hear that they are both ill and doctors are stumped. I feel kinda bad about it. What should I do?’

The obvious answer: “For God’s sake, you idiot, tell them what you did, so the doctors can treat them! Why are you wasting time talking to me? They could die, and you would be responsible!”

But this answer isn’t the one given by Emily Yoffe, Slate’s serially incompetent and unethical advice columnist. She responded, in a live online chat that uncovered this vile supplicant, who confessed to routinely dipping her employers’ toothbrushes in the toilet and periodically spiking their bedside water with the same fecal solution, by writing this:

“Part of me would love to tell you to rush to confess. However, I will extend you a courtesy that you didn’t give your “inconsiderate” and “rude” employers. That is, while I think this couple should know the source of their illness, confessing could leave you open to potential prosecution. You may deserve it, but you need to consider the stakes here.”

That part of Emily, apparently, is the sensible, compassionate, ethical part, and it was over-ruled by the unethical, irresponsible, dumb part. The lawyer, if he or she is more ethical than Emily, a good bet, will tell the Potty Poisoner that she should confess immediately in case an E Coli infestation is what is making the couple ill, particularly because they might die, greatly increasing her risk of serious criminal penalties as well as, you know, ending their lives and leaving their children parentless.  The lawyer will also explain all the possible scenarios resulting from what Emily seems to dread, honesty and accountability. Even lawyers, who are required to place their clients’ best interests first, are not supposed to advise them to cover up their crimes and allow their victims to perish. Advice columnists are definitely not supposed to do this, and are duty bound to give wise and responsible advice that is in the best interests of all concerned, not just their correspondents, who are likely to be, in general, less than bright, ethically-clueless, and in need of nannies themselves.

“Dear Ethics Alarms: I’m an advice columnist and I told someone who said that she had been poisoning her employers with fecal matter that she didn’t need to ‘fess up, even though they became deathly ill. Now she has written me a follow-up, thanking me for my advice since the couple died, leaving several young children orphaned, and she would have been in big trouble if she had come clean. Now I feel guilty. Should I?”

Yes.

______________________
Pointer: Fark

Source: Slate

Ethical and Unethical Adultery Advice: There is Carolyn Hax, and Then There Is Emily Yoffe

Sometimes, you just have to tell your slimy boss “No.”

Emily Yoffe is Slate’s advice columnist, in its “Dear Prudence” feature. She specializes in extreme situations: a recent column involved a teenager who realized that his mother had breast-fed him far too long because she was sexually aroused by it, and then had him fondle her breasts for years after he stopped be willing to suck on them. He asked what he should do now that his mother was subjecting his younger sister to the same treatment. (Emily did get that one right: she told him to call child services on his mother, and to seek professional help for himself.)

Last week I congratulated Carolyn Hax for her advice to a woman torn between the adulterous relationship of one friend with another friend’s husband. Notwithstanding the persistent argument of one crusading commenter who felt that I should have stood for universal adultery whistleblowing on friends and strangers alike, Hax gave, as usual, practical, ethical and measured advice.  She suggested that the inquirer tell the cheating husband that his secret was out, and that she would not lie to protect his illicit affair.  I believe that’s the right ethical balance. Hax’s advice to the woman was to be proactive in both extracting herself from the split loyalties and to be a catalyst for either disclosure or ending the affair. I also noted that the ethical duty on the questioner may be different when the betrayed spouse is an especially close friend, or a family member. Then loyalty and trust could require disclosure.

That same week, Yoffe got an inquiry from a “well-paid assistant of a successful business mogul.” Among her duties, she told “Prudence,” is to facilitate her boss’s extra-marital affair: lying about his whereabouts to business associates, deceiving his wife when she calls, and even buying gifts for the illicit lover. “Next month he’s going on a weeklong business trip,” she wrote. “He only needs to be gone for two days, but he’s taking his girlfriend with him and staying longer. I know I’m doing wrong by his wife. But I love my job, and I’m not sure what I could or should do to behave honorably in this situation.” Continue reading