If we fall back on the book ethics, the case is pretty clear. Kant would say don’t take the money because you don’t want to have a rule “it’s okay to lie if….” Bentham and Mill would say don’t take the money because if everybody would take the money, there wouldn’t be enough left for everybody. But that’s just it. The thing is: There would be. There is enough money in the economy – if we were to spread it out more evenly – to pay every adult a basic, bare bones minimum income. You know, like, $450 per week. And that’s where the ethics really collide: If the system itself is unethical, if the few profit on the backs of the many, is it unethical to take advantage of it? Or to put it differently: Can I really change a system by refusing to participate in it? Or am I just ending up hurting myself?
It would be nice if someone where just willing to write me a check once a week. No strings attached… Like a private redistribution of wealth… In the meantime, I haven’t decided yet what to do. I have realized, though, that ethical decisions are not as clear cut as the books make them out to be.
Update on May 20: After reading this post on liars, I decided to cancel my claim. My integrity is priceless. I can live without the $450/week. Sure it would be nice to get it (and I am still open to the private wealth redistribution idea ;-)! But I didn’t leave my corporate job just to start lying (again). I want to live with integrity! And saying x when I should be saying y is just not part of that kind of life! (Of course, right now I have the luxury of making that choice… But I’d venture to say that all the people who lie could survive without saying that lie.)