Money, Fees, Morality
May 25, 1997 08:08 PM
by Bart Lidofsky
One problem I have been seeing is that many here are taking the
immorality of the charging of money to be axiomatic. And I do not take
it as such.
One reason why there is an illusion of moral relativism is that
morality is not subject to simple binary logic (nor are most real-world
logical decisions). In fact, in each moral decision, there are numerous
factors working for and against each other. The weight of those factors
change the importance of other factors. This requires what is currently
called in mathematics a "fuzzy logic" system, or a system where many
factors are taken into consideration, and the weight of each factor
affects the weights of all the other factors.
The basic factors involved in making a moral decision are the moral
axioms one chooses. The more axioms one has in a moral system, the more
relativistic it necessarily becomes, and the harder it is to make a
moral decision. I hereby propose two axioms on which to build a basis of
a definition of morality:
1) The key to morality is one's true intentions.
2) The most moral action in any given situation is the one which
benefits humanity the most, when taken in its totality.
Now let's look at charging money. Now, the action of charging fees and
accepting money is not, in and of itself, either moral or immoral. One
must look at intentionality, as well as the impact of the transfer of
money on the condition of humanity. If one, for example, never accepts
money, and starves to death as a result, it is probable that one has
harmed humanity more than helped it, and therefore have committed an
Now it can be said that the sharing of knowledge with others improves
the condition of humanity, and the withholding of knowledge from others
harms humanity. And one can, if one is looking at the situation very
narrowly, state that withholding knowledge due to lack of payment of
money is therefore immoral. But that violates the 1st and part of the
second axiom. One is not looking at intentionality, and one is not
looking at the totality of the action.
Most branches of Christianity declare the making and transfer of money
to be somehow sinful. "The love of money is the root of all evil"
becomes "Money is the root of all evil". This has created a dualistic
attitude in our society, in that since the gaining of money is in itself
immoral, attempting to gain money by moral means is hypocritical, and
therefore it is more honest to drop morality entirely in the gaining of
money. This attitude has bled through society, and seems to be present
in this mailing list, as well.
There are two aspects of transferring knowledge from one person to
another. The first is for the 1st person to state the knowledge. The
second is for the 2nd person to understand that knowledge. Giving the
1st an obligation to pass on the knowledge does not give that person the
ability to allow the 2nd person to understand it.
Teaching is both a difficult to obtain skill and hard work.
Refusal to release knowledge may be harmful to humanity, but forcing
someone to work without payment is also harmful to humanity. Not
charging people for being taught, even those who can afford it, is
helpful to humanity. But giving knowledge to a person in such a way that
they will not value it is harmful to humanity. And, in our society, if
we do not charge for something, people will generally assume that it is
For those who cannot afford to pay, but are embarrassed to say so, they
are dwelling too much on their ego, and they don't have a true desire to
learn. If they truly desire to learn, they will find a way.
It is wonderful to be able to get teachers who will teach without
compensation. But to do so can, and, in our society does, have the side
effect of withholding knowledge from the public, by excluding those who
need payment in order to impart the knowledge. What is better for
humanity: For someone with a great deal of knowledge to teach to work as
a ditchdigger so that, for their two weeks vacation, they can go out and
teach people for free, or those who take a salary from teaching, so that
they can afford to impart their knowledge all day long?
Should public school teachers be willing to work without pay? Would our
children get educated under such circumstances?
By charging money, the New York Lodge can impart far more knowledge to
far more people than they would if they attempted to make everything
free. Due to years of following a policy of making everything free, we
have a membership that is largely without funds to donate, regardless of
willingness. We have high expenses, and those expenses must be met if we
want to maintain a meeting hall. So we charge. We charge in such a way
as to attract the maximum number of interested people to our programs.
If someone is sufficiently interested to state a need to go for free, we
let them in either for free or in exchange for volunteer work, depending
on the circumstances.
And it cannot be said, without knowledge of the specific circumstances
involved, whether it is moral or immoral for a Lodge to charge for
programs. And I am tired of seeing too many people here say in effect,
"I don't want to have to make any sacrifices to gain knowledge, and I
therefore think it is the job of the Lodge to make the sacrifices for
me, so that I don't have to."
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