Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

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Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:28 pm

This is a thread where I will pose, from time to time, interesting and challenging ethical dilemmas that I run across. There are no "right" answers; rather, the interesting thing is to see what people think about different situations.

I will start with the final resolution of the Dennis Lehane crime novel Gone, Baby, Gone (1998), which was also made into a movie in 2007. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie but think you will, then you should stop reading, because I'm going to give away the ending in order to discuss the ethical issue.

Okay, here's the set-up. 4 year old Amanda MacReady has been kidnapped from her single mom, Helene. Two private detectives are hired by Amanda's aunt-in-law to find her. Meanwhile, Helene, the detectives learn quickly, is a pretty awful human being. She's racist, she uses pot and cocaine casually around the house, she's probably an alcoholic as well, she dropped out of high school, she has no job and no interest in getting one, and on the night Amanda was kidnapped, Helene went out to a bar with her friend to hit on guys (i.e., she left her 4 year old daughter ALONE at home).

Eventually, the detectives discover that Helene's brother Lionel conspired with a very senior police detective to take Amanda away and have her be raised by the detective and his wife. (It's not clear how they're going to get her a new identity to start school in a year or two.) Amanda seems quite happy with her new "family." They obviously treat her well and can provide a much better life for her than Helene can (or wants to). However, Helene *is* Amanda's mother.

You are one of the detectives. Your partner wants to leave things as they are and for you to report back falsely to the sister-in-law (who doesn't know about the scheme) that you were unable to find Amanda and that she's probably dead.

Do you think that is the right thing to do? Or is the right thing to do to reunite Helene with her daughter because, as crappy of a mother as she appears to be, blood ties are stronger than anything else?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:14 pm

Reunite Helene with her daughter. Maybe have CPS keep an eye on them, though. People can change for the better, especially because of trying times, and nobody deserves the hell of thinking that their child is dead.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by drecsutal » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:56 pm

Kidnapping is not an appropriate response to a negligent parent. There are proper legal channels, and if the mother is really doing drugs in front of her kid, they'll probably work just fine. If the police detective is willing to raise someone else's kid and is really a better home, they can also go through proper legal channels to adopt a disadvantaged child.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by sham » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:59 pm

the answer seemed so obvious to me that I wondered where was the dilemma in there. but looking at eigenbasis' reply...maybe there is an ethical issue...

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Verdigris97 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:37 pm

The older I get the more I realize that ethics is usually concerned with far more than the immediate dilemma at hand.

It usually has to consider (a) longer-reaching consequences, like the trauma if the child is taken away (legally) from the new family after she's developed strong bonds with them, and (b) setting precedent for future situations. What is the exact point at which a parent's negligence justifies abduction and a lie concerning the death of the child? This sounds like a crazy slippery-slope argument ("clearly in THIS case it's obvious"), but nobody would be willing to legislate what the line is, and therefore you have to question the ethics of their decision.

But I think in this case Eigen's point is incredibly insightful, and trumps my ethical analysis. No matter how bad a parent she might be, there's no way to understand how horrible and traumatic it would be for her to think she lost a child.

CPS seems to me to be the ethical choice, with the (unfortunate) consequence that the child might not be removed from the dangerous situation fast enough. If it is not an option, then I think the child needs to be returned to the mother.

My ethical dilemmas usually concern one issue, with only minor variations: "An adult (think 25-35 years old) graduate student with a family (think kids ages 2-12) is caught cheating on a major project or exam. How far do you pursue the case, understanding that you might ruin their already established, and successful, (think 10 years, upper-middle management) professional career?"

Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, but boy does it suck.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:26 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:People can change for the better, especially because of trying times, and nobody deserves the hell of thinking that their child is dead.
Maybe I should mention that in novel, Helene seemed more concerned with her TV news appearances than actually about Amanda's welfare.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lostcalpolydude » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:36 pm

I add spoiler tags to the forum, and when someone actually posts something labeling it a spoiler they don't use the tag? :(
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:41 pm

lostcalpolydude wrote:I add spoiler tags to the forum, and when someone actually posts something labeling it a spoiler they don't use the tag? :(
Those tags are for hiding the crap from the end of an ascension log and you know it.

On topic, I'm kind of surprised the first example in an ethics discussion wasn't the trolley problem. That one actually gets down to the fun stuff of ethics (like the role of agency in determining whether something's ethical, which I find a particularly fascinating human foible).

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by drecsutal » Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:19 pm

stupac2 wrote:On topic, I'm kind of surprised the first example in an ethics discussion wasn't the trolley problem. That one actually gets down to the fun stuff of ethics (like the role of agency in determining whether something's ethical, which I find a particularly fascinating human foible).
That's kind of what I was expecting as well.

For example, most people would agree that collateral damage of one person who would otherwise have survived to save many is okay, but actually killing one innocent person to save many others isn't. (For example, re-routing a train with 20 people onto a track with someone standing on it (instead of over a cliff) vs killing a healthy person for organs that would save 20 people.)
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:06 pm

stupac2 wrote:On topic, I'm kind of surprised the first example in an ethics discussion wasn't the trolley problem. That one actually gets down to the fun stuff of ethics (like the role of agency in determining whether something's ethical, which I find a particularly fascinating human foible).
The trolley problem is a good one and can come next, though I have some fiendishly clever variations on it. (Not ones that I thought of, mind you, but fiendishly clever variations that I have read about.)

Regarding the missing child one, Eigen has identified one prime value, but of course, the welfare of the child is another prime value. Granted that the parent may suffer horribly in thinking that her child is dead (though as I note, in the novel, it's not clear that the parent indeed suffered that much during the time when her daughter was missing), and further granted that the parent might radically change her lifestyle and provide a decent life for her daughter, the odds of that happening seem quite small. Poverty and lack of education are crippling family circumstances for a child. So, if you think that if you return the child, the chances are 5% that the single parent will change and improve things and 95% that they will stay the same (numbers picked out of thin air), with CPS monitoring to make sure they don't get worse, and that if you don't return the child, the chances are about 99% that the child will have a better upbringing (more economic security, money for college, more emphasis on doing well in school, safe environment, etc.), well, it's not so clear to me that the parent's interest should win out over the child's interest. (It's not 95% likely that the child will have a better upbringing, because even if the single parent changes, it's not guaranteed that the change will outweigh what the abducting parents can do.)

I think this ethical puzzle splits people into the "let justice be done though the heavens may fall" camp versus the "greater good outweighs the rigid adherence to the law" camp. Obviously, if you think leaving the child where she is is better, you have to start thinking about well, do we officially start taking kids away from the Octomom as well? That's not a very appealing line to cross where the State starts deciding who is a fit parent and who is not. (I mean, more intrusively than it already does.)
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:28 pm

For what it's worth, I think that ethical questions with premises outside of reality are inherently "unfair". (Premises such as, say, assuming the mother will never change and doesn't give a rat's ass about her child.) They don't translate well to reality because reality is full of shades of gray. Sure, those kind of questions are fun to discuss on forums but I wouldn't expect anyone to take the answers to those questions seriously.

What I'm trying to get at is that it's difficult for me to abstract the problem away from reality and make a judgment call based on that abstraction.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:18 pm

The Author of "Freakanomics" stipulates that while you might be able to save the child from the torment of a neglectful mother, the child herself will not flourish as you might hope for in the displacement. Her eventual social standing will likely not change. Nature, not nurture is too great a determining factor.

What of suffering, though? JS Mills might say that the suffering of the child and the foster parents outweighs the suffering of the mother. But then utilitarian math turns odd consequences.

Biological right? I'm not sure this should have as strong a hold on society as it does. Of course, untethered from that concept we end up with strange problems where poor single mother doing okay has her baby taken away by affluent parents.

I think the biological right stems from part property rights and a reliance of tribalism -- where you are much more willing to give everything to someone biologically close to you, than a stranger.

Precedence is something Lawmakers and Kant can worry about, I don't think the "right thing to do" has to answer to either. Instead, believe the mother in this circumstance abdicated her right to the child when she neglects the child so willfully. CPS is a good a symptom of a large society of strangers that needs such an institution because otherwise the young would be abandoned. But the average child in CPS will be bounced between foster home for a long time. Not a great option. In a small community (like the Southy of the film/book) tribalism would be this girl's savior. The goal of CPS is to save children from neglect and find them a home. That goal is achieved and more (she's loved) by the detective taking her in. CPS is a necessary bureaucracy because it has to fit all situations equally. But specific situations are not the general case and do not need to be strangled by the same rules. Don't sacrifice the goal just to preserve the process.

The girl goes to loving parents.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Fred Nefler » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:12 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:For what it's worth, I think that ethical questions with premises outside of reality are inherently "unfair". (Premises such as, say, assuming the mother will never change and doesn't give a rat's ass about her child.) They don't translate well to reality because reality is full of shades of gray. Sure, those kind of questions are fun to discuss on forums but I wouldn't expect anyone to take the answers to those questions seriously.

What I'm trying to get at is that it's difficult for me to abstract the problem away from reality and make a judgment call based on that abstraction.
Such idealism and objective declarations are intended to prevent the argument from degenerating into semantics and other hemming-and-hawing that gets the discussion nowhere. Kind of the entire point of a dilemma: you have EXACTLY two choices, with NO other options, neither one of them clean and pretty, and you must choose between them. Falling back on reality being shades of grey, or somehow completely distinct from the world of the hypothetical, however valid, is an escapism from the problem and choice presented to you to absolve you of the pressure (and imagined responsibility) of making a choice.

It's similar to lecturing someone about their escapism while avoiding dealing with the dilemma entirely.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:14 pm

Verdigris97 wrote:My ethical dilemmas usually concern one issue, with only minor variations: "An adult (think 25-35 years old) graduate student with a family (think kids ages 2-12) is caught cheating on a major project or exam. How far do you pursue the case, understanding that you might ruin their already established, and successful, (think 10 years, upper-middle management) professional career?"

Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, but boy does it suck.
This is an interesting issue, but it's basically the same as when a parent commits a crime that merits a serious prison sentence. Sending the person away will cause enormous harm (financial and emotional) to the family members. But not sending the person away because of family ties would end up discriminating against singles/childless adults, and isn't fair either.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Fred Nefler » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:17 pm

Raccoon wrote:
Verdigris97 wrote:My ethical dilemmas usually concern one issue, with only minor variations: "An adult (think 25-35 years old) graduate student with a family (think kids ages 2-12) is caught cheating on a major project or exam. How far do you pursue the case, understanding that you might ruin their already established, and successful, (think 10 years, upper-middle management) professional career?"

Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, but boy does it suck.
This is an interesting issue, but it's basically the same as when a parent commits a crime that merits a serious prison sentence. Sending the person away will cause enormous harm (financial and emotional) to the family members. But not sending the person away because of family ties would end up discriminating against singles/childless adults, and isn't fair either.
To the stockades with the lot of them! They know damn well what they're doing and risking, and they made that choice.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:18 pm

NardoLoopa wrote:The Author of "Freakanomics" stipulates that while you might be able to save the child from the torment of a neglectful mother, the child herself will not flourish as you might hope for in the displacement. Her eventual social standing will likely not change. Nature, not nurture is too great a determining factor.
Is that too strong of a reading of the chapter in "Freakonomics"? I read it as saying that nature matters, and you can take the child away and have her raised by affluent, well-intentioned, well-educated, loving parents, and that non-biological child probably won't turn out as well as the couple's biological kids would have. But that's not the same as saying that the child's social standing will likely not change. In Brave New World terms, the gamma child raised by alpha parents maybe won't reach alpha-level achievement/standing, but probably will be better than gamma-level achievement/standing.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:23 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:For what it's worth, I think that ethical questions with premises outside of reality are inherently "unfair". (Premises such as, say, assuming the mother will never change and doesn't give a rat's ass about her child.) They don't translate well to reality because reality is full of shades of gray. Sure, those kind of questions are fun to discuss on forums but I wouldn't expect anyone to take the answers to those questions seriously.

What I'm trying to get at is that it's difficult for me to abstract the problem away from reality and make a judgment call based on that abstraction.
I'm not sure I understand the objection. Are you saying that you believe that there are exactly zero parents who don't give a rat's ass about their children? Are you saying that you believe that there are zero people who won't change their inherent selfishness? I think that's a pretty extreme position and fairly easily refuted by example.

Moreover, in one of my follow-up posts, I was willing to posit that there was some small chance that the mother would change. You can quibble with the number that I arbitrarily assigned to that likelihood, but I'm not sure that the dilemma can then be so easily evaded by simply arguing about the correct probability of change. Some people change, others won't. The dilemma is essentially asking, how much risk of no-change are you willing to impose on the child?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:52 pm

If the premise is fantasy, then the ethical decision is only relevant in the fantasy world. It doesn't translate well to the real world. I would hope you and everyone else here understand that. Unfortunately, people seem to use these games to judge others as terrible/upstanding people in the real world. (That's been my experience on other forums, which is why I'm suspicious, even though AFH is a much more friendly place than most of the internet).

And for what it's worth, you sort of changed the premises by mentioning after the fact that Helene didn't care about her daughter after she had been kidnapped. Does that change my decision? Probably not, because telling her that her daughter is dead involves a lot of (what I consider to be immoral) deception, and I don't believe any lay person is qualified to determine who should be deceived for the alleged welfare of the community. Vigilante justice is not a good thing.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:18 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:And for what it's worth, you sort of changed the premises by mentioning after the fact that Helene didn't care about her daughter after she had been kidnapped. Does that change my decision? Probably not, because telling her that her daughter is dead involves a lot of (what I consider to be immoral) deception, and I don't believe any lay person is qualified to determine who should be deceived for the alleged welfare of the community. Vigilante justice is not a good thing.
Ah, well, I'm re-reading the book right now, so the details are coming sort of in real-time. She doesn't yet think her daughter is dead, just missing, but she doesn't seem to care too much. She was a crappy mother who took her daughter with her on drug trafficking trips as a mule. And to be clear, it's not for the welfare of the community, but rather, the daughter.

The CPS alternative basically seems to say, give the daughter back, and if the mom makes conditions worse, CPS will intervene. But what if conditions don't get worse, but they don't get better either?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:24 pm

Raccoon wrote:In Brave New World terms, the gamma child raised by alpha parents maybe won't reach alpha-level achievement/standing, but probably will be better than gamma-level achievement/standing.
Won't is about 5 orders of magnitude too strong. "Is probably somewhat less likely to" works better. And, depending on age, that probably could be pretty close to 0.

Oh, and your peer group matters more than your parents. Estimates I've seen are usually something like 50-25-25 to peers-genes-parents. Gross estimates, but still, genes aren't even the major factor in determining many aspects of our lives (especially something as difficult to quantify as "achievement").

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:41 pm

Stu, you need to stop showing everyone your gross estimates. Nobody wants to see that.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:26 am

NardoLoopa wrote:What of suffering, though? JS Mills might say that the suffering of the child and the foster parents outweighs the suffering of the mother. But then utilitarian math turns odd consequences.
People are often drawn to Millsian utilitarianism when confronted by difficult ethical questions. This is understandable as Mill provides an easy to follow, almost mathematical solution to each problem. One does not have to struggle with the moral decision when one number is clearly greater than the other. This is short-sighted, however, and is better analyzed through the lens of Bentham's utility. We must conclude, therefor, that Amanda MacReady should be dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture. Her skeleton should be dressed in her clothes and stored in a wooden cabinet. Wait, I'm not sure that's right. It's been a long time since I took my ethics course in college.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lordhades15 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:42 pm

By the time I made it to this thread, the discussion seems pretty well flushed out. Hopefully I make it in time for the next question ;)
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:35 pm

lordhades15 wrote:By the time I made it to this thread, the discussion seems pretty well flushed out. Hopefully I make it in time for the next question ;)
Okay . . . next question.

You arrive in a hotel late at night. You are hungry but the late night room service offerings are expensive and not very tempting. However, the snacks in the mini-fridge are tempting. Expensive, but tempting. You decide to eat a $10 bag of cookies and a $5 bag of potato chips and drink a $3 can of soda, even though those are all rip-offs.

The next day, before the maid has made up your room, you head out to a local convenience store. It just happens to sell the EXACT same size/brand of cookies, potato chips, and soda that you consumed last night, except the cookies are $2, the chips are $1, and the soda is $.50. Is it ethical for you to buy the snacks and replace them in the hotel mini-fridge so that you don't get charged the hotel's exorbitant rates?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Fred Nefler » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:02 pm

Raccoon wrote:
lordhades15 wrote:By the time I made it to this thread, the discussion seems pretty well flushed out. Hopefully I make it in time for the next question ;)
Okay . . . next question.

You arrive in a hotel late at night. You are hungry but the late night room service offerings are expensive and not very tempting. However, the snacks in the mini-fridge are tempting. Expensive, but tempting. You decide to eat a $10 bag of cookies and a $5 bag of potato chips and drink a $3 can of soda, even though those are all rip-offs.

The next day, before the maid has made up your room, you head out to a local convenience store. It just happens to sell the EXACT same size/brand of cookies, potato chips, and soda that you consumed last night, except the cookies are $2, the chips are $1, and the soda is $.50. Is it ethical for you to buy the snacks and replace them in the hotel mini-fridge so that you don't get charged the hotel's exorbitant rates?
Yes, though if the hotel is super smart/anal, they'll check the barcodes, rendering your attempts futile.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:45 pm

Absolutely. I have no problem with buying replacements and putting them back. But that's why they sell their coke in glass harmonicas.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:27 pm

Yep.

Only Whitehead would think there's anything different about the Chips you ate and the chips you replaced them with. Without Whitehead commodities are completely fungible.

BTW: where is this store? And do they sell mini-bar liquors?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Verdigris97 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:55 am

Raccoon wrote: You arrive in a hotel late at night. You are hungry but the late night room service offerings are expensive and not very tempting. However, the snacks in the mini-fridge are tempting. Expensive, but tempting. You decide to eat a $10 bag of cookies and a $5 bag of potato chips and drink a $3 can of soda, even though those are all rip-offs.

The next day, before the maid has made up your room, you head out to a local convenience store. It just happens to sell the EXACT same size/brand of cookies, potato chips, and soda that you consumed last night, except the cookies are $2, the chips are $1, and the soda is $.50. Is it ethical for you to buy the snacks and replace them in the hotel mini-fridge so that you don't get charged the hotel's exorbitant rates?
Mrs. V has actually done this, with my blessing, and we both slept soundly (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were the culprit). In fact, she opened the original carefully, ate the cups, and then resealed the (empty) packet to act as a standin for the housekeeper while she purchased a replacement the next day.

I put it in the exact same category as taking food into a movie, to a ballgame, or to the airport. The locations in question are all taking advantage of the fact that you are a "captive" audience, and gouge you on prices.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:03 am

I have a question for you, is it ethical to flop in a football game? Against, say, Oregon...

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:16 am

Verdigris97 wrote:I put it in the exact same category as taking food into a movie, to a ballgame, or to the airport. The locations in question are all taking advantage of the fact that you are a "captive" audience, and gouge you on prices.
Hmm, I'm not sure I see these as the same. If you had had the foresight to bring snacks with you to the hotel room, that would be like bringing food into a movie, etc. Here, on the other hand, the hypothetical is that one did not bring snacks. One could have gone out at night, but chose not to. The hotel has provided a service, for which it might reasonably extract some extra money for.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:17 am

stupac2 wrote:I have a question for you, is it ethical to flop in a football game? Against, say, Oregon...
The NCAA says it is not ethical, but provides no penalties or enforcement mechanisms. . . .
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:18 am

The hotel is charging you for the convenience of having snacks ready and available for consumption in your hotel room without having to travel to a store. If you still travel to the store, you haven't saved any time and you've made the hotel whole. I still see no problem with it.

And Stu, that happens all the time. Cal is just bad at it.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lordhades15 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:53 am

Raccoon wrote:Okay . . . next question.

You arrive in a hotel late at night. You are hungry but the late night room service offerings are expensive and not very tempting. However, the snacks in the mini-fridge are tempting. Expensive, but tempting. You decide to eat a $10 bag of cookies and a $5 bag of potato chips and drink a $3 can of soda, even though those are all rip-offs.

The next day, before the maid has made up your room, you head out to a local convenience store. It just happens to sell the EXACT same size/brand of cookies, potato chips, and soda that you consumed last night, except the cookies are $2, the chips are $1, and the soda is $.50. Is it ethical for you to buy the snacks and replace them in the hotel mini-fridge so that you don't get charged the hotel's exorbitant rates?
Victimless crime. The corporation is not being ripped off of the product, they are being ripped off of the profit. However, you are not making a profit, as you are merely consuming the product. Absolutely yes.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Pet Rock Steve » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:31 am

thacon wrote:The hotel is charging you for the convenience of having snacks ready and available for consumption in your hotel room without having to travel to a store. If you still travel to the store, you haven't saved any time and you've made the hotel whole. I still see no problem with it.
The issue I have with this argument is that I don't see much of a difference between this case and taking the food from a convenience store then later going to a supermarket (or wherever it is cheaper), buying it, and placing that back in the convenience store. It is still shoplifting when taking from the convenience store.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:57 am

The reason most people will say it's acceptable is because we perceive the hotel as engaging in price gouging, which we perceive as unfair. Since they're treating the customer unfairly, all the rules of fairness are off, and the customer is free to break the rules too. I don't think most people would consider it fair if the example was set somewhere with a smaller, or 0, difference (for instance, taking the food from the minibar if it was the same price but you had no money, and replacing it with something from the kwik-e-mart after stopping at an ATM, or something less stupid since minibars don't work that way).

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:24 pm

Pet Rock Steve wrote:The issue I have with this argument is that I don't see much of a difference between this case and taking the food from a convenience store then later going to a supermarket (or wherever it is cheaper), buying it, and placing that back in the convenience store. It is still shoplifting when taking from the convenience store.
If you rented the convenience store and would be charged for everything that was missing at the end of the rental period, would you still see it as shoplifting if you restocked the shelves?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:40 pm

The convenience store requires you to pay for the goods up front. The hotel allows you to eat your $12 peanuts and then get charged at some point in the future. I think this window of opportunity is the key.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:37 pm

I think Stu's observation explains (but does not fully justify) the intuition that this is okay. I say that it does not fully justify it because you are free to avoid the hotel's price-gouging -- much more so than in a movie theater even.

Interestingly, the NY Times's ethicist comes down squarely on the side that this is unethical behavior.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:08 pm

That brings up a question (IT DOESN'T BEG IT), is this thread for explaining whether or not an action is ethical, or explaining why people give the answers they give to the previous question? I guess it's ethics vs meta-ethics, or something. All I know is I find the latter significantly more interesting.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:30 pm

stupac2 wrote:That brings up a question (IT DOESN'T BEG IT), is this thread for explaining whether or not an action is ethical, or explaining why people give the answers they give to the previous question? I guess it's ethics vs meta-ethics, or something. All I know is I find the latter significantly more interesting.
Oh, I'm much more interested in why people give the answers that they do. I'm certainly not purporting to give a definitive answer as to whether the actions are or are not ethical.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:56 pm

Raccoon wrote:I think Stu's observation explains (but does not fully justify) the intuition that this is okay. I say that it does not fully justify it because you are free to avoid the hotel's price-gouging -- much more so than in a movie theater even.
I disagree that this is why we find this okay. I think it would be weird to take the time to restock the minibar if the price were exactly the same, but I wouldn't find it any less ethical, although it's hard to come up with a realistic situation where you would do this without having other motives in play.
I think the difference comes in what you see as the service when you are paying for a $5 bag of chips in your hotel room--it seems like those of us who tend to find this acceptable tend to be saying that the primary service is the act of stocking the minibar (which we are then doing when we replace the chips), whereas the folks who are saying it's unacceptable tend to be saying that the primary service is the convenience of having the minibar in the hotel.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by sham » Fri Nov 19, 2010 1:54 am

"Property is theft" is one of my favorite quote ;)

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:15 am

Raccoon wrote:Interestingly, the NY Times's ethicist comes down squarely on the side that this is unethical behavior.
The Times's analogy is totally different. If you drink a beer at the Staples center, that's one less beer they have to sell that night. Unless there's going to be someone else staying in your room before you can replace the items from the mini-bar, the example doesn't work.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Kelemvor » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:50 pm

slaphappy snark wrote: I think the difference comes in what you see as the service when you are paying for a $5 bag of chips in your hotel room--it seems like those of us who tend to find this acceptable tend to be saying that the primary service is the act of stocking the minibar (which we are then doing when we replace the chips), whereas the folks who are saying it's unacceptable tend to be saying that the primary service is the convenience of having the minibar in the hotel.
Sounds right to me. I think this is totally ethical behavior, which correlates to my belief that the only service a mini-bar provides is the service of ripping me off and preventing me from having a refrigerator (as they are often mutually exclusive). Well, that's not totally true. Mrs. Kel and I like to play The Price is Right with the minibar menu.

Seriously, if I'm so hungry that I consider paying a 300% markup for a bag of chips, that bag of chips isn't very likely to satisfy said hunger.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Verdigris97 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:02 pm

Kelemvor wrote: Sounds right to me. I think this is totally ethical behavior, which correlates to my belief that the only service a mini-bar provides is the service of ripping me off and preventing me from having a refrigerator (as they are often mutually exclusive). Well, that's not totally true. Mrs. Kel and I like to play The Price is Right with the minibar menu.
There's an essay by Umberto Eco called "How to Travel with a Salmon" that is (relatively) funny. Basically, it describes a war between Eco and the person restocking and charging for the minibar, as he wanted to use it as a refrigerator to store the aforementioned salmon. (It is not an ethical conundrum, but I thought it was a relevant reference for this particular point of Kel's)

I love staying with hotel chains that guarantee a fridge. Mmmm. Beer.

Edit: Not sure why I kept the snark quote block markers, but Kel said that, not snark.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:24 pm

Kelemvor wrote:Seriously, if I'm so hungry that I consider paying a 300% markup for a bag of chips, that bag of chips isn't very likely to satisfy said hunger.
Don't forget about business travelers. When I'm staying at a hotel, but my company or client is picking up the tab, I have no problem raiding the mini bar. I once did the billing for a client, which includes collecting everyone's hotel folios, and discovered one girl was going through 5 or 6 of those mini bottles of liquor per night.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Kelemvor » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:40 pm

That begs a separate question (YES I KNOW I DID IT ON PURPOSE SEE IT'S IRONICAL) : if you are given the opportunity to get ripped off and you recognize that you're getting ripped off, is it ok if you choose to do it when someone else is footing the bill?

I'm not sure I'm wording this well, but think about perhaps more extreme instances. Is it ok for a business traveler to park in the short-term parking lot at an airport for a short trip even though it's at least 50% more expensive than long-term parking and possibly 2-3x more expensive than off-airport parking? What about going out to lunch on the company tab and ordering the filet even though you would have gotten the salad for yourself? What about going out to dinner on the company tab and ordering two entrees so that you can take one home for later?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lostcalpolydude » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:47 pm

Apparently this is why the company I work for just gives you a set amount of money per day to cover food when you go on trips where it should be covered and doesn't bother with reimbursing. I bet they save money even though it's quite a bit more than most people would spend on food using their own money.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:17 pm

Why is the ethical constraints on the individual are greater than those on companies? Why is it that companies can manufacture desires and then charge you to satisfy them? While that's pretty much the nature of mid/late 20th century capitalism, why is it okay? It seems the common defense hinges on a convenient and prideful belief that everyone has freewill not do give in to the desire -- or to somehow make themselves immune to the desire. But profitable companies excel on understanding successful predation. And they are very successful at shifting culture to accept norms to their benefit. And lots of people just don't have enough reason in their skulls to prevent falling for obvious traps. It doesn't even have to be fine-print. Just as a loan-shark. Or PayCash or whatever the company is called that gives short-term loans at high interest if you sign over your car title.

Think of all the money corporations shell out to make you want to buy their product when they know it's the same as the competitor. "It's Toasted". What exactly is the consumer's defense against things like this? Why do we let companies lie to us and call it "doing business"? Why do we let them mark some snack foods 120cals per serving - 4 servings per bag when nobody would possibly eat 2grams of whatever it is. Why are all these shady practices justified and acceptable in business when we wouldn't consider them ethical for people?

Why is it that companies walk away from loans all the time but when a person walks away from a mortgage we feel they are unethical?

And this is the long-winded answer to your question: the odds are stacked against me. They're stocking the fridge with cupcakes in the hotel that's hosting my Weight Watchers' convention. And that's why it's okay to replace the snacks at no loss to them -- heck my replacement is probably fresher.

This vitriol stems from a question I had to contemplate today: Say I'm the CEO of a major Airline. One of my flights was canceled today due to mechanical failures. What, if anything, do I owe the passenger(s) who booked a flight with me and, because we could not find him an alternative route, is now missing a day of his vacation -- not to mention a wasted day off work where he stood in line for 3hrs at our clerk's desk. Now, sure, mechanical failures happen -- and I could keep enough planes on hand for redundancy, but that would eat into my profit margin -- it's not really force majeure.

And why does the question seem so odd to ask what a company ethically owes a customer? We seem to think that the ethics will be taken care of by consumer decision. But that means loss of future business -- not what's owed under the current agreement. [obviously this is where small-print comes in to cover the airline and wash their hands of the deal -- and claim that if you wanted such a guarantee you'd pay a premium for it.]

And this begs the question of the underlying ethical relationship between entities. If it's contractual (as people like Darwall believe it is) then what part of the contract is keeping me from replacing the goods in the mini-bar? Certainly nothing I've agreed to.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:53 pm

Kelemvor wrote:Is it ok for a business traveler to park in the short-term parking lot at an airport for a short trip even though it's at least 50% more expensive than long-term parking and possibly 2-3x more expensive than off-airport parking? What about going out to lunch on the company tab and ordering the filet even though you would have gotten the salad for yourself? What about going out to dinner on the company tab and ordering two entrees so that you can take one home for later?
It entirely depends on the guidelines that the company chooses to establish. If the company says that you should use the cheapest method of parking, then you're obligated to use off-airport parking. If they say they'll reimburse you for parking, regardless of cost, you can feel fine choosing whatever is the most convenient for you without considering cost. Choose the filet over the salad? Of course. If the policy is again silent when it comes to cost, why not? The ordering of two entrees seems more shady, but I suppose it also depends. If the company says you're entitled to a meal, are you being unethical if you order two? What if you could order a $50 meal or two $25 meals?

I agree with lost on this one. It's on the company to set the guidelines to keep their employees in check and it's usually easier to just set dollar amounts. Several years ago I worked on a client that required me to fly 2000 miles round trip every week and we were given an unlimited budget. We felt both entitled and tacitly encouraged to eat filets and drink $300 bottles of wine. On the other hand, last week I traveled to a client and was told that I had $50 to eat each day.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Kelemvor » Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:05 pm

Let's change the context slightly -- let's say that instead of working for a Fortune 500 company/client with 50,000 employees, let's say you work for a 5-person startup, which is being funded by the CEO on loans from his friends/family and a second mortgage on his house.

The company policy is that you can spend whatever you feel is reasonable and necessary to do your job. There are no dollar limits but it's clear that the company trusts you to do the right thing, whatever that means. Also keep in mind that the company is in real danger of running out of money.

Does this change whether it's ethical to order $400 bottles of wine with dinner? If so, why? What if dinner is with a major prospective client you are wooing?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:16 pm

Kelemvor wrote:Let's change the context slightly -- let's say that instead of working for a Fortune 500 company/client with 50,000 employees, let's say you work for a 5-person startup, which is being funded by the CEO on loans from his friends/family and a second mortgage on his house.

The company policy is that you can spend whatever you feel is reasonable and necessary to do your job. There are no dollar limits but it's clear that the company trusts you to do the right thing, whatever that means. Also keep in mind that the company is in real danger of running out of money.

Does this change whether it's ethical to order $400 bottles of wine with dinner? If so, why? What if dinner is with a major prospective client you are wooing?
Woah there, Kel. I didn't say anything about $400 bottles of wine. I draw the line at $300. :)

But seriously, if the company is a 5-person startup and the company is footing the bill, I'm not sure it changes the ethics, but it would give you an incentive to be frugal. If you represent 20% of the company, you want the company to be as profitable as possible because it benefits you more in the long term. You want there to be more money available to invest in the company's growth as well as your compensation. With a fortune 500 company, you will almost never see the benefit of saving $100 here or $500 there and the company will most likely not miss it either. For your startup, though, it might be the difference between getting that new copy machine or not.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:05 am

Not really an ethical issue, but I suppose there's a question about whether it's ethical to raise kids this way:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

- attend a sleepover

- have a playdate

- be in a school play

- complain about not being in a school play

- watch TV or play computer games

- choose their own extracurricular activities

- get any grade less than an A

- not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

- play any instrument other than the piano or violin

- not play the piano or violin.
I grew up with fairly demanding parents, but not nearly as severe as Professor Chua seems to be. On the one hand, if your kids are going to be piano prodigies (or Olympic athletes), you kind of need to raise them as she does. On the other hand, is it ethical to choose for them what they're going to be great at?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:30 am

"Remember: 18 hour violin, 8 hour sleep."

"But papa, there are only 24..."

*Slap slap slap slap slap*

(that's what we'd say to taunt my violin prodigy friend when he had to practice violin instead of playing outside)
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Omri » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:41 am

Haha, I just read that article yesterday. I disagreed with some of the particulars mentioned, but I did appreciate some of the ideas. I definitely agree with pushing kids to do things they don't like, because, as mentioned in the article, "nothing is fun until you're good at it". Once they practice and try hard and put in the effort to be good at something, it becomes a lot more enjoyable, especially when you reach an "aha!" moment where something just clicks. Now, I'm not saying parents should tell their kids they have to be doctors, but that they should push their kids to excel in many aspects of life, even when it may not be fun at first.

I also appreciated what the article had to say about our western culture focusing too much on self-esteem. This is actually something we would discuss in class when I was working on my M.Ed. People have this idea that high self-esteem is beneficial not only in its own right, but that high self-esteem brings other fruits too, like better grades and good behavior. The fact is, however, that research shows no such causal relationship. Self-esteem may be a good thing in and of itself, but it shouldn't be the be-all, end-all goal to the exclusion of discipline and pushing academic effort and performance.

On the other hand, I definitely disagree with a lot of things she does. I think it's silly to forbid your kid from doing something he or she is passionate about, like not letting them be in a play. And piano and violin aren't the only valid musical instruments by any stretch of the imagination. And while I do think that it's necessary to have discipline, calling your kids garbage or mocking them isn't the way to do it.

Take all what I have to say with a grain of salt though. I don't know much about parenting from a practical standpoint because I'm not one. I do like to learn about different parenting styles for that day in the future when I will be one though.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:03 am

My thoughts are pretty well summarized by this person's comment on reddit:
I definitely agree with this statement. And I agree that sometimes it is necessary to push a kid to keep working at something until they succeed. I want my son to know the value of hard work and persistence and those are things that don't come naturally to most people.

I probably push my son to keep trying at something far past the point where most other parents would give up or step in and do the task for their child but my son is so happy and proud of himself when he masters something new, more so if he had to work very hard to get there. The result is that my son seems a lot more confident and capable than even some of his friends that are a couple of years older.

I believe in the power of parental disapproval as a discipline tool as well. Even as a teenager the worst thing my mom could do to me was say "I am so disappointed in you". With my three year old son, one of the most effective things I can say when he is repeatedly acting up is "You're really starting to make me not like you right now."

Those are the parts I agree with.... I think choosing all of my kid's extracurricular activities, or banning them altogether, not allowing him sleepovers, play dates, camp, girlfriends would be way over the line. Kids need to know how to make choices for themselves and how to make, and get along with, friends as well as a good education in order to be successful adults. I think keeping a kid trapped at home constantly practicing an instrument they didn't choose to take up and constantly studying would leave them very good at academics and piano but very deficient in other important areas of life.

I think pushing a kid to keep trying at something is a good thing but forcing a kid to sit at a piano for hours without even a glass of water crosses the line from tough love straight over into borderline abuse.

There is a middle ground I think we should all aspire to. It isn't just a black or white choice between blaming the teacher when your kid fails math and being so strict that your kid isn't allowed friends or free time. You can push your kid to try past the point where they want to give up, celebrate the fruits of their hard work and insist that they get an A in math, even if you have to spend hours every evening for months reviewing math problems with them, without completely dominating them and dictating every aspect of their life.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Pantsless » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:38 pm

Omri wrote:People have this idea that high self-esteem is beneficial not only in its own right, but that high self-esteem brings other fruits too, like better grades and good behavior.
High self-esteem is critical for getting your child laid as a teenager (if it is male) or keeping it from getting pregnant as a teenager (if it is female).

But yeah, you can't mollycoddle kids through their childhood, or real life will kick them in the face as adults. Gotta strike that balance where they like themselves enough to believe they are capable of great things, if they work at it.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:55 pm

Teflon "non-stick" cookware is suspected of releasing carcinogens when sufficiently heated (and within the range of normal "high heat" cooking). When Mrs. Raccoon read about this, she decided to replace all of our teflon cookware with much more expensive stainless steel stuff. But what to do with the old cookware? Tossing them away seems bad from an environmental standpoint. And if we donated them, surely there would be poor people who might benefit, at least financially. But is it ethical to subject them to a health hazard that we are not ourselves willing to risk?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by drecsutal » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:11 pm

Imagine that you discovered yourself to be in possession of a very good counterfeit $100 bill (which passes the typical "marker" test that retail stores do, as well as a casual visual and tactile inspection) and completely unsure of where you got it. Would it be ethical to give it to somebody else, knowing they might end up down a hundred bucks or even charged with a crime?

In other words... only if they're aware of the potential risks.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:15 pm

Solution: Send it to Pantless and he can bring it to Ann Arbor to be recycled.

I don't think it's unethical. I mean, look at the founding fathers. They knew their blankets had smallpox, but they still kept the Native Americans warm at night.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:32 pm

Print article. Tape to Frying pan. Leave for salvation army.

You don't have the obligation to prevent a peer from taking risks, only an obligation to inform them and let them decide.
Last edited by NardoLoopa on Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by reverkiller » Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:49 pm

Reuse the pots and pans in any way that does not heat. For example, flat griddles (like the kind used for pancakes) make excellent trays, and frying pans have any number of uses that don't require cooking.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:40 pm

This isn't really an individual ethical dilemma, but it is sort of a societal one.

How should public K-12 schools be funded? In some states, local property taxes fund local schools, with the result that public schools in affluent neighborhoods get more money per student than those in poor neighborhoods. The Supreme Court has said that this approach does not violate the Constitution. That may be right as a matter of constitutional law, but it's obviously problematic.

In other states, such as the one I live in, the state funds all school districts on the same per-student basis. Yet, the quality of public schools is still strongly correlated with the wealth of the local neighborhoods. What happens is that the local schools are permitted to create their own foundations, which then raise money on behalf of the school(s) that they are attached to. Our elementary school's foundation had its annual auction recently, and while I don't know how much was raised this year, I know that last year, it was enough to save the P.E. teacher's job, which otherwise would have been eliminated due to budget cuts.

Mrs. Raccoon and I live in a relatively affluent part of the city. We're not the richest family in the school district, but we're not the poorest either. And people who attended the auction were able to bid, for example, $1200 for their child to be able to be "principal for a day"; $1200 for 4 students to have breakfast with a very popular teacher; and $1000+ for art projects made by various classes. Not only that, a number of us made outright donations of amounts ranging from $50 to $1000. (By no means are we in the wealthiest area, though. A few other foundations raise A LOT more.)

But you can see where I am going with this. The state tried to equalize funding for all students, but parents who have the means and resources and who care about their kids' education aren't going to stand by and do nothing. Parents who don't have the means and resources can care about their kids' education, but they can't raise funds like this. So my kid gets to have his P.E. teacher, but poor kids maybe don't.

(It's actually not so bleak. 2/3 of what's raised goes to that foundation; 1/3 gets kicked to the state, which presumably uses it to help ease funding crises in the schools in the poor neighborhoods. Of course, I'd prefer that my son's school get the full amount raised, but I can understand this requirement. Any more would probably be too much, so I think the state has calibrated it reasonably well.)

I suppose the state could forbid these sorts of foundations, but disparities would still remain. For one thing, those parents with resources and means would probably just opt to live less well and pay for private schools. That of course lowers the teacher-student ratio in the public schools and is a short-term benefit, but if enough affluent people opt out of the public school system because they can't even raise funds to help their own schools, there will be push back on public school spending. . . .

Besides, one thing I notice at my son's school when I drop him off is how many parents (mostly moms, admittedly) volunteer their time as teacher's aides. I don't mean to suggest that only affluent parents care about their kids' education, but again, this is a matter of time/resources. You're more likely to see one working spouse households where the non-working parent can be an effective volunteer aide when the working spouse has a relatively high income.

* * *

Back when I used to teach SAT prep courses, I would mock the SAT to the students by pointing out its perfect correlation to family income. (Ironically, most of the students came from affluent families.) But such a correlation isn't at all surprising. Affluence/wealth translates into better average student performance for many reasons having nothing to do with the genetic inheritability of intelligence.

Can society sever that correlation? Do these foundations that I described above essentially benefit a few students while imposing an effective cost on other (poor) students?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:58 pm

If the state tries to equalize funds, and then parents donate their time and money on top of that, like with the foundations you describe, I think that's a good thing. That's money that would not otherwise go in to the school system. Of course parents will pay for ostensibly silly things like "principal for a day" but I bet might be opposed to increased taxes to pay for education if those foundations didn't exist. That's just human nature and you can't fight it.

So the two options you listed are funding on a local basis (property taxes) vs. state centralized funding. On a per-state basis it's usually almost impossible to switch between them. Florida's schools are funded by property taxes and there's no way they could be funded by the state because Florida doesn't have an income tax. I would imagine that most states are just as rigid in their tax structure.

So we have to look for other alternatives. Ideally we would want to boost poor performing schools and keep the good schools largely the same (because people hate having good things taken away from them and will fight tooth and nail against it). How can we do this? (besides the obvious answer to raise taxes) I have no clue.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by bennieloohoo » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:47 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:Ideally we would want to boost poor performing schools and keep the good schools largely the same (because people hate having good things taken away from them and will fight tooth and nail against it). How can we do this? (besides the obvious answer to raise taxes) I have no clue.
This is the kajillion dollar question!

Also, if a state decides to ruin its good public schools by defunding them, then rich people will just send their kids to private school. :P

My experience (warning: small sample size) leads me to think that just throwing money at underperforming schools isn't going to make them much better. I've seen money wasted in all kinds of creative ways in Texas public schools. I'm torn on the voucher thing; I think a market would result in improved education, but at the same time I feel like public education shouldn't be privatized on philosophical grounds. And this is coming from a guy who generally likes privatizing things.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Omri » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:50 pm

My experience (warning: small sample size) leads me to think that just throwing money at underperforming schools isn't going to make them much better. I've seen money wasted in all kinds of creative ways in Texas public schools.
This.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 1:03 pm

http://gothamist.com/2011/04/20/former_ ... ed_ove.php
A grand jury today indicted the roommate of a Rutgers student who committed suicide after he realized that his homosexual encounter had been recorded on webcam.
They didn't indict him on manslaughter or murder charges related to the suicide, but they indicted him on charges including invasion of privacy and intimidation. (As well as evidence tampering and hindering prosecution)

If you share a room with someone and you access your own computer's webcam, should that be considered a legal invasion of privacy? There were many people calling for manslaughter charges. If your actions lead to another's suicide, should you face manslaughter charges? If this had been a case where the roommate was having heterosexual sex, but all other facts were the same, would this lead to the same indictments? Should it?

This case is full of ethical gray areas.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:18 pm

Lots of grey areas that are fairly independent of each other, but they are well within the reach of the law and precedent.

There has to be a legal precedent or law regarding actions leading to suicide and what type of charges that would bring. I am not a lawyer so I can't really comment on what should happen, except that I think the roommate deserves to be punished for this.

As far as privacy goes, those sorts of laws vary from state to state. In some states, both parties must be aware their actions are recorded otherwise it's an invasion of privacy. In some states only one party has to know (the recorder). There are other conditions as well, but I would assume they qualify here. I would also assume New Jersey has a two-party recording law and that's why they could indict him.

Edit - just brought out my notes from Internet Law on privacy. A privacy tort can be charged in the following scenarios:

1. intrusion on seclusion - where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and the recorded material is "highly offensive" (canonical example would be a peeping tom with a camera). This is the case here. (Note that "highly offensive" = would be damaging or embarrassing to the recorded person.)

2. appropriation of name or likeness - ex. using a celebrity's likeness without permission

3. disclosure of private facts - facts must be "highly offensive" and not a matter of public concern

4. "false light" publicity - ex. placing a photo of someone unrelated in an article about a crime committed
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:34 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:There has to be a legal precedent or law regarding actions leading to suicide and what type of charges that would bring. I am not a lawyer so I can't really comment on what should happen, except that I think the roommate deserves to be punished for this.
But what do you mean by "punished"? It's one thing to say that the defendant may have committed a tort (i.e., a civil wrong) for which he should pay compensation to the victim (or victim's estate). This seems to be what you have in mind from the privacy tort discussion that follows. It's altogether different to say that the defendant should be punished through the criminal process, which is what seems to be happened now.
A privacy tort can be charged in the following scenarios:

1. intrusion on seclusion - where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and the recorded material is "highly offensive" (canonical example would be a peeping tom with a camera). This is the case here. (Note that "highly offensive" = would be damaging or embarrassing to the recorded person.)

2. appropriation of name or likeness - ex. using a celebrity's likeness without permission

3. disclosure of private facts - facts must be "highly offensive" and not a matter of public concern

4. "false light" publicity - ex. placing a photo of someone unrelated in an article about a crime committed
This isn't my area of specialty, but I'm not sure that privacy rights survive the death of the victim.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:19 pm

Raccoon wrote: But what do you mean by "punished"? It's one thing to say that the defendant may have committed a tort (i.e., a civil wrong) for which he should pay compensation to the victim (or victim's estate). This seems to be what you have in mind from the privacy tort discussion that follows. It's altogether different to say that the defendant should be punished through the criminal process, which is what seems to be happened now.
Well, he's being charged with a hate crime right now. If this wasn't a bias incident? I really don't know what would be just. Maybe manslaughter with the degree corresponding to how responsible he was.

This isn't my area of specialty, but I'm not sure that privacy rights survive the death of the victim.
I just checked and I couldn't find anything either way, but he is being charged with invasion of privacy.
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