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One of the questions in my ethics class which really upset a few of my classmates was about tainted money. Here's the gist of it. Let's say you worked at a restaurant and were paid really well to be the person who stands at the front desk. You get to buy jewelry and nice dinners out and so on. You even get a nice $10k bonus. But then you find out that there's a teen-kid-brothel in the basement and the reason you're being paid so well is that there's extra money from the abuse of these young girls.

Would you keep that bonus figuring "heck, you earned it, and money is money," or would you think the money was tainted and want to donate it to charity or something, maybe a teen-girl-helping charity?

Lisa


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Keeping strictly ethics in mind, I'd quit and return the money and run for my life. Keeping my morality and legalistics in mind, I'd call the cops and offer either stay to inform or run like a bat outta he double hockey sticks smile

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LOL Sara I think I agree with you on the running away part smile

There were some students in the class who were literally upset that anyone could think money could be tainted. They thought it was incredibly stupid to feel that way. They thought all money was money and if they were given any money it was theirs to spend, period.

I wonder if maybe this is a cultural thing, that some families bring their kids up to grab and keep any money they can? The students in question seem to be in the US but they might come from a different cultural background.

I do certainly know people who are *frugal* - but they still care about where the money comes from. For example, my dad has a life insurance policy out on my brother because my brother has $40,000 in student loans that my dad signed for. If my brother dies the life insurance will cover the loans. The life insurance company was trying to force my dad to take out $200,000 in a policy. My dad was upset by this, because he didn't want to be profiting if his son died. That would have upset him greatly. He just wanted the loan covered and nothing else. So he worked hard to make sure the amount was just for the loan. To him that money would have been tainted and it would have upset him to have it and to spend it on himself.


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I also think money is money.

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That is interesting, so you can help me understand this better!

So in the restaurant scenario, you would have been content to keep and spend the money?


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See my other post - i think i answered this in detail. smile

It really does upset me to discuss what I myself would do. I am too big and complicated a puzzle. I am boundless. I am infinite. Much better to talk about what i think someone else might do.

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Good to know, thank you!


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I'm still curious and maybe we can talk about this as a third person situation!

Let's say the Dalai Lama is approached by a man who wants to give him a personal gift of $10,000. The Dalai Lama is then informed by his advisors that this man runs a child trafficking ring and that this money is money he earned through the sales of those young girls.

Would it seem reasonable for the Dalai Lama not to want to keep that money himself to spend on himself - and instead donate to a support home that helps girls get off the street and find a new path in life? What would your thoughts on this third party situation be?

If you don't want to talk about it even in the third person that's fine too, I am trying to learn things but do not want to upset people as I do.


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I think the Lama is an extreme example. He is an enlightened being. Also, i think there are Buddhist rules for such things and having a 'handbook' is always going to be useful in daily life situations.

Let's take this more real. Ok, let's use House. He'd keep the money and find something important to him to do with it, whatever that may be. If charity is important to him, then he will put it there. He'd probably never let anyone know it. Also, as a specialized doctor, he is far from broke.

But he also might take Wilson and himself to the Caribbean for a week of hedonistic gallivanting.



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I had used the Dalai Lama to give a starting point to work with that is high - but if you feel he is bound by rules and therefore an invalid example let us choose a thoroughly Buddhist layperson who has no rules binding him. He simply chooses to live his life by general Buddhist philosophies and is serious about that attempt.

Would it seem reasonable if he chose to give the money over to charity?

I know many fairly poor people who deliberately choose to tithe 10% or more of their income to what they feel is a good cause, so I am not sure that income level factors heavily into this. But we can make him a man with little in his bank account and a break-even income, to ponder the possibilities.

Again I realize there is never any right or wrong. Ethics is not about absolutes. It is simply about possibilities. And again if it's upsetting to even talk about possibilities then it's OK to not do it (or to let someone else take up the conversation who doesn't mind doing it).


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I think there is no way to make this not judge others, which is why it perturbs me. It makes it sound like donating it to charity makes you "good." Keeping it makes you "bad."

I don't see anything wrong with House taking Wilson for a fun week away from it all. I don't see a problem with putting it in a bank account for life's emergencies.

It's just money. It ebbs, it flows. If you donate it to charity....well, that is still what you 'want' to do...thereby it's still 'selfish.' Mother Teresa, Ghandi - they still did what they wanted to do. Their selfishness helped others. Which is great. But house using his selfishness to have a good time at Club Med certainly doesn't hurt anyone. It doesn't make the world worse. I would never judge someone for keeping that money.

It bothers me that others do. I know that is how the world works - people judge. I really really really try not to. I know i fail at that, frequently. But I want to be as Princess Leia said, "He's got to follow his own path. No one can choose it for him." That really affected me in 1978 and I still think about it every day.

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Lisa, to give the money back would be to let it be available for further wrongdoing. I couldn't keep money for personal gain that had been earned by the exploitation of others.

I would find some way that people could benefit from the money...give it to charity, help those in need (especially if they were the exploited), or use it to educate others about the conditions that brought the money to me.

I know what you mean about the "money is money" bunch. I just find it bizarre that people can think that it is fine to reap the rewards of others' pain. That being said, there are many people that I respect and even love who feel that way. We usually agree to disagree.

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Dear Jilly -

It's fine to say that you don't like these types of discussions and don't want to engage in them - that's fine! It helps me understand why others also have a similar reaction.

Maybe they signed up for the ethics class not realizing it would involve these types of discussions and now they're "stuck" and upset about it. Or maybe they thought they were OK with these types of discussions and only once they began did they realize that the discussions upset them.

To me the discussion is without emotion or judging, it is simply about options. You find the discussion to involve emotion and judging and ranking, and that is good to understand!

There is no need for you to be in a discussion that upsets you smile So it is fine not to discuss it!


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what a good question.

I think I'd find another job, but we're kind of going through a bit of this ourselves and I can tell you what the mentality of it is here.

I see cultural differences and generation differences. Both so far carry the general idea, all is fair game, they deserve... Do whatever it takes to get the cash, and take or send it home.

There's no gratification or respect in terms of earning the money, it's like a dog fight and they'll simply shrug their shoulders if you same something like, "Ya, but doesn't it bother you...?"

If they want an extra $10.00, $20.00, $30.00 they just take it.

Seeing this I make copies of everything! All the figures and who's working and where. You can mke direct eye contact with them and they'll lie to your face or worse, got to love this one, they'll scream and rant that you're NOT "tolerant" or racist, and yes this is during work hours full lobby and all.

It's a very "me" era and though the buzz is "entitlement" these days, I notice getting all the things they feel entitled to, they're no happier for them and lost actually because they haven't one single true identity or reference in terms of what it feels like to see rewards and progress, based on hard work and ethics alone.

I'm sure they're out there somewhere but I'm seeing less and less ethics in play.


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Connie -

I do agree completely that I would not give the money back smile That is something I feel strongly about. The person got their money through hurting others. I think they should be punished and trained to not do that any more. If they are allowing that money to be used for good rather than harm, I am all for it. I want to reward that behavior. And then shut them down smile


I think like Jill mentioned that it's delicate to "judge" other people for what their choice would be in an ethical question. Everyone makes ethical choices for different reasons and the great thing about ethics is that there is no right or wrong answer. There is always going to be a particular case where something makes sense.

Imagine my son was about to die from a kidney failure and had been in pain for 2 years straight and his only chance of life was a $100,000 operation that I couldn't afford. Now suddenly along came this child-rapist who was willing to give me $100,000. I imagine I would take it, save James' life, and then dedicate the rest of my life to donating $100,000 to a saving-kids-from-rapists organization. Yes in that extreme case I would take the money. I would also "balance it out." My personal path would make that important to me. So to me ethics is never about absolutes. It is generally about trends. You're discussing what you're likely to do, not what you absolutely would do in every single specific case smile

You could also ask a more global question, of why I would choose to spend the money on others rather than on me. Part of this for me comes down to a "how I want my impact on the Planet Earth to be supported." That is, I could easily make money running a porn website. I have the know-how. I could make a lot of money. But that would support me with the pain of others. That would make me unhappy. I want to help people and harm none. So instead I run a help-people site and it makes far less money (well even less-less money because we choose to run charity ads too). I am happy with that choice.

What if this website had a catastrophe and failed? Would I start a porn site? No. I would work at a PetSmart or something first. I would always seek a harm-none option. I suppose part of that is that I have faith that there always *is* a harm-none option. I think statistically speaking things would have to get outrageously dire if the absolutely only choice in my entire world was to run a porn site in order to feed myself food. So in terms of ethics and statistics, that falls outside the realm of general discussion; that would be like contemplating what I would do for a job if a meteor struck the earth and we all lived like cave people. Certainly it's an *interesting* discussion but it's unrelated to the current discussion smile


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Dear Eleise -

I think you touched on a number of different, important topics. I'll start with just one because otherwise this post will get huge smile

We were talking in our ethics class about employee theft and some people felt it hardly ever happened. I then posted statistics about how prevalent it is -

Approximately 40 percent of employees steal at least one item per year.

75 percent of all employees steal from their employers at least once throughout their careers.


from todaysbusinessreport.com

I've seen these same figures in many other books I've read. I used to work for a loss prevention agency so this was something I did research on. What our company did was bring all cash register receipts from a store into a database and then look for anomalies to track down employee thieves. We found thieves in every store we looked at, pretty much every week, across the board.

My good friend worked for many years at stores watching for shoplifters and employee thieves. That was her full time job. She had weeks where she'd arrest 4 employees in a single week - not even counting shoplifters. It was rampant. And everyone she caught felt "everyone was doing it" so it made it OK.

So we could then ask WHY everyone is stealing. When I worked at this company it was during the tech boom, so not in "bad times." When my friend worked at her companies it was also during good times. So this isn't recession related. It is simply that people saw they *could* take money so therefore they did it.


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Here's part of the post I made to my ethics class on the topic of employee theft:

I just asked my friend who worked in loss prevention about her experiences. She worked in that field during prosperous economy years so again it wasn't in our current recession. She said that she'd easily have weeks where she'd arrest 4 employees in one week for theft of various kinds. Here are some specific examples she gave me. Sometimes it was a cashier who would steal her bus fare every day for six years before she was caught. Sometimes a manager would take home a shopping cart worth of stuff every day. Sometimes an employee would steal food each day to have a snack. Sometimes a person would take cosmetics they liked while stocking the shelves. So these are just employee thefts - not even customer thefts - and they went on regularly.

My friend would go to industry seminars and all stores from all over the US would have the same story. So it wasn't just one store or one chain - it was everyone.

She ended her message to me with this interesting comment -

"And almost every person I interrogated would say they stole because someone else who worked there was doing it and getting away with it."


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Heh. if we lived like cave people my skills and knowledge would finally be in high demand. smile Sometimes I even fantasize about this. Even though I know in reality things would be brutish and generally suck. /OT

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Jilly -

Your skills and knowledge *are* in high demand - you're turning away work! That's awesome! There is an audience out there for everything you do.


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LOL. I am in *some* demand but it doesn't feel the same for me. Maybe because I am naturally a good writer. I don't value it - it just is there. It is what it is.

But I spent a great deal of time deliberately learning about survival skills, natural living techniques, living off the land, learning wilderness medical techniques, how to make a fire, stay warm, find your way, find water, find food, preserve food, grow things, using plants medicinally, stay warm, cool off, live with wild creatures....I find it all fascinating. It's fun to think about. It would be fun to think that all this could be in demand, that instead of wall street brokers and football athletes, I would be someone our society considers productive. I find it amusing and comforting.

I used to teach these skills for a living, but that is not the same. It's a fringe activity to society. I am not complaining - more like I am wistful in some way for 'real' skills to matter.

I content myself just knowing that people like me are around if needed. smile

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I think it would be good to find ways to value the things you are good at! Many people desperately want to learn how to write well. That is their dream goal. Don't take it for granted! Make yourself a sign to praise yourself for your skill!

Now separately, if you have skills that you are very proud of already, would it make you happy to spend more time involved with those skills? If so that might be something to put on your long term to-do list, to ponder!

I do have to say that if people are willing to pay you to learn the skills then they are valuable smile


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Great question Lisa. I took an ethics class in college and it was fascinating. I went to a catholic univ and our professor was a priest so the debating got really intense at times.

Taking tainted money in the ways you described is no different than making money from advertisers who's company's stand for greed and unhealthy things. I've seen a lot of those around here that make me cringe and even though I know the money from those ad banners pay to maintain our site it bothers me on such a deep level but I continue writing here. Some examples because I know how inquisitive you are:

Here at bellaonline:
Sketchers shape ups - I hate what they stand for and the fact that their spokesperson is a complete brainless bimbo makes it that much worst.

RIFT - promoting our youth to sit for hours playing violent video games (I could write volumes on how I can't stand video game culture but don't worry I won't).

On my site freeworkoutsguide.com:
Jillian Michaels - I think we all know how I despise the B.S. Loser approach to fitness (shame, torture, babysitting and drama) not to mention that people sit and watch the show and feel all great about themselves for vicariously "exercising" with those losers but they hardly get any real exercise (sorry for the rant). Real fitness is nothing like that stupid show but I let Jillian pay my bills!

Med shape, Herbal body wraps, crossfit, are others that I make money from and can't stand. I could easily block these ads but why. I need to make money from spreading my message too and my readers, the ones that truly care about their health, won't click those ads. Those who do aren't the kind of readers I want on my site anyway. Like I said in my other post it's not my job to convince you of anything only to guide you if you are ready to change.

The situations you brought up are different but not really. I'm sure we've all gotten our fair share of tainted money especially those of us who have worked in the service industry. If an advertiser who I knew was running a child pornography ring offered money to put ads on my site I would say no but what are the chances that you'll ever know that.

Bill Gates donates billions to Big Pharma and Biotech so they can continue making people sick. Will you stop buying his products? As with many things in life ethics is never as clear cut as you think.

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Monica, I like what i think you are saying - that there is an interconnected web of money, almost like an ecosystem. And in any system there will be predators, prey, parasites and symbiotic relationships.

You can't really worry who your money has touched, but you can decide what you will do with it.

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I think there are always shades of grey and perhaps it it comes down to where a given person happens to draw the line based on their own personal situation. For example we turn down tons of ads every day for casinos and questionable dating sites and get rich quick sites and so on. So that is money we could donate to charity but we refuse it in the first place. We don't want to even have it on the site. I haven't seen the sketchers ads but to me that is more mild. Yes I'd call it a questionable healthy living purchase but I am less active in refusing to have it be something people see to consider. An interesting point.


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Exactly!!! Thanks for simplifying what I was trying to say.


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