The Un-Ethicist #3

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Miguel Cohen has returned. He confesses that he was mistaken about the mad cow disease. All he was suffering from was a bad hangover.]


So let me get this straight, David. You have no problem when an investment firm loses property, but when it comes to images of the Robinsons sobbing under the shadow of a white picket fence, your heart bleeds? Who do you think you are? Some sort of hippie?

It’s not really about people at all, is it, David? It’s about your own personal prioritizing. Family over the individual, people over the investment firm. The individual who dares to live alone doesn’t gnaw at your conscience. Through lack of success (though not without effort) or out of choice, the individual who can’t get laid or find a soulmate and dares to own a home gets your goat. But the family — oh, I can see that tugs at your heartstrings. The greater the numbers (i.e., family unit of three or more over one individual), the more likely you will respond to entities getting screwed over in a deal.

What I don’t think you realize that we have afforded so many rights to partnerships and corporations that they have practically the same unalienable rights as the individual. They become families in their own way. Hypothetically, an “individual” entity can hook up with another entity at a bar and form a partnership. The paperwork and process is just that simple.

While an investment firm’s goal is to buy residential property and rent it out to people — sometimes roasting the renter alive, sometimes not — the overall purpose is to make money. Likewise, any “individual” or “family” is pining for the same. Buy low, sell high. Let the property value accumulate over the years. And then let out a husky laugh in your autumn years when you’re fat, bloated, wrinkled, and rolling naked in a bed of bills. The American Dream in a nutshell.

But what is the family but a closet corporation? A family may not get the same tax breaks as the richest 1%. Nonetheless, a case could be made that the current tax system is prejudicial against single people (and in fact many libertarians living in gated communities have made these arguments). If you look at the family as a business partnership, if you modify the language in a wedding announcement from “Mary Jane Wilson and Henry Stillman were married” to “Mary Jane Wilson and Henry Stillman announced their creative partnership,” does this help your conscience?

I worked my way through a prestigious university but, because of economic circumstances, never graduated, something that still leaves me ashamed. When colleagues ask, ”When did you graduate?” I often answer, ”I finished in 19xx,” creating the impression that I graduated. I don’t have to disclose my every failure, but I regret being deceptive. Should I make it clear that I did not graduate from Prestigious U.? D.A., REDWOOD CITY, CALIF.

First off, D.A., why even answer the question at all? If your colleagues truly respect you, and you’re sleeping with them, then they’ll respect you for who you are in the morning. If you’re not sleeping with them, then they’ll sniff your identity out, which is basically a needlessly diffident dude who can’t offer precise answers to the simplest questions. Your colleagues are hearing this “I finished” racket and, if they are smart, they are probably seeing a not so skillful toe-tapper.

If it means so much to you, then why not go back and get the degree? Better yet, if you feel it’s too late in life for you to do this, then join the ranks of great humans who never set foot in a college: George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, G.K. Chesterton, too many to list.