“The Ethicist” Endorses Vigilantism

No, you can't scam the scammers....

No, you can’t scam the scammers….

I haven’t been monitoring the New York Times’ “The Ethicist” column as much as I once did. After the original author of the feature, Randy Cohen, was jettisoned, the various ethicists, pseudo-ethicists and imaginary ethicists the Times recruited to fill his  slot have ranged from inconsistent to incompetent, and I stopped checking regularly until recently. Now the column has a real ethicist, for once: Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U., and wrote “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.”  He seems to be thorough and explains his analysis using valid ethical systems. He’s a vast improvement over his immediate predecessors, but he goofs too.

A questioner asked about how he should handle scammers who tricked his father out a check. He wrote offering a threat and a settlement. They were to  return half the money, or he would report them to the consumer-affairs division of their state’s attorney general’s office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, register complaints on websites and generally see that they suffered for their fraud.  His demand: send  a certified check, made out to his father, by the deadline. It worked; he got the amount requested, and the check cleared.

“But it was not certified, and it arrived after the due date,” he wrote. “Do I have an obligation to uphold my end of the deal, by not registering complaints about an outfit that is clearly scamming elderly people?”  Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Dear AIG: I’m Not Going To Be Able To Keep Criticizing Occupy Wall Street For Destructive Class Warfare If You Act Like This”

Michael, who now leads the field in Comments of the Day, picks up another with his commentary on my post about AIG’s continuing habit of living large on taxpayer funds. Here are his reflections on the post  Dear AIG: I’m Not Going To Be Able To Keep Criticizing “Occupy Wall Street” For Destructive Class Warfare If You Act Like This:

“A company can allow any expenses they want. That being said, since they are now majority owned by the US government, we need to ask who is giving the go ahead to things like this? Why haven’t they been fired? The Wall Street culture is so entitled and so out of touch with the reality of the common Americans that it is almost beyond belief.

“The Occupy Wall Street group could have a lot of legitimate gripes, but they don’t seem to have anyone with half a brain in the group. Instead of hearing “I want them to take the money from rich people and give it to me” form a college aged girl wearing $500 worth of clothes or “I have gone to every protest I can find for the last 40 years” from the aging hippies, why not try one of the following angles: Continue reading

Dear AIG: I’m Not Going To Be Able To Keep Criticizing “Occupy Wall Street” For Destructive Class Warfare If You Act Like This.

Pelican Hill...where wealthy insurance executives can spend taxpayer funds like it was Monopoly money!

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the huge insurer—too big to fail!— that is now majority-owned by the U.S. after a 2008 bailout of $85 billion, has resumed its arrogant, irresponsible habit of living like sultans on the money of taxpayers, many of whom are getting kicked out of their homes and who can’t find jobs.

Back in October 0f 2008, the House Oversight Committee nearly had a collective stroke when it discovered that, just one week after the federal government bailed out AIG because it was too vital a part of the shaky world financial markets to let go belly-up as it richly deserved, company executives went on a wildly-expensive retreat to a luxury resort. The executives “spent nearly $500,000 on manicures, facials, pedicures, and massages,” among other things.  Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was incredulous, and he wasn’t alone: Continue reading

The A.I.G. Bonus Payments…Again

Here we go again.

A.I.G. is paying out another 100 million in “retention pay,” also known as eye-popping bonuses, which is certain provoke another round of cursing from the public and posturing by politicians. The question is whether it is unethical to pay these bonuses, and you’re not going to like the answer. I don’t like it much myself.

It is no. Continue reading