My daughter came home the other day with an ethics assignment. She was supposed to comment on a story about a man who went to an ATM and instead of receiving £100 as he requested, he received £10,000.
And the receipt still said £100.
When he got home and checked his account online he discovered that his account had only been debited by £100. He put the £10,000 in a safe place and waited, fully expecting the bank to ask for it back. But months passed and nobody did.
Ethics question: Should he have returned the money to the bank? After all he hadn’t stolen it. The money was a drop in the ocean for the bank. And wouldn’t they be insured for such an eventuality?Or is it always wrong to take money that is not yours?
When my daughter brought up the question, both my husband and I snorted and said he should definitely keep the money. Damn banks! Look what they’ve done to the country. Look at what they’ve done to the tax payers. Of course he should take the money and run!
Our daughter blinked, surprised at our reaction. Here were her parents, two normally rather reticent, law-abiding adults, seething with resentment and bile. Of course, it didn’t help that I had just watched Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, a paean to banking greed and incompetency.
And after she left with a last look askance at her still jabbering parents, I felt like I had been caught with my pants down. My normal Do what is right, Take care of your neighbour, Do as you would have done to you parenting stance had been completely shredded.
This financial crisis has not only hurt our pockets but has tainted our moral teachings. Do we continue to teach our children to play by the rules even when some obviously don’t, profit enormously, and get away with it?
photo by wait.ti (flickr)