• December 5, 2014

gold-207585_1280People will steal food out of a shared fridge quite readily but if you put a $5 bill in there, people will be far more reluctant to nab it (although eventually I expect you’ll find a taker).

Money plays a subtle and unique role in morality.

If you swipe a tip off of a table at a diner, most people will think of you as either a very sad and impoverished person or as a despicable moral degenerate. People with super-elevated and rigid moral standards might take the position that you are undoubtedly a moral degenerate, whether or not you are poor or hungry. And I suppose that sociopaths or amoral egomaniacs will think of you as neither pathetic nor crooked so long as you can get away with it.

If, on the other hand, you steal from the government, from a large employer, from an ex-spouse, or from a litigation adversary, many people feel much less, if any, moral outrage. Many seem to think that this kind of stealing is “to be expected,” “normal,” “human,” or, at least, “no big deal.” Some will even take it a step further. They demonize the government, “free market capitalist corporations,” the ex-spouse, the litigation adversary to legitimize stealing from them.

So, if Michael J. Antonello transferred assets to his wife and his wife transfered them to Antonello’s wholly-owned business (that is, back to himself, as far as most people are concerned), apparently in the hope and expectation that the assets could not then be seized by a judgment creditor, I bet many would not think of the conduct as particularly contemptible.

Maybe this is simply the cat-and-mouse game inherent in a world of finite resources, a zero-sum game?

6_fault..1gifIf we admit to a fluid and inconsistent moral code, does that mean we are too judgmental in one scenario or insufficiently judgmental in another scenario? Or should we simply hold inconsistent positions simultaneously clinging to some firm but irrational sense that the two apparently inconsistent positions are somehow ultimately, if inexplicably, reconcilable?

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