Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Good to the Bone

by Paul Jacob

Jared Gray is an 18-year-old high school student who works as a janitor for Southern Utah University. One day he found a bag of cash lying in the parking lot, obviously one of the school’s deposit bags.

The bag was labeled with the amount: $108,000.

Jared didn’t hesitate to return the cash, saying he was raised to be honest. To express their gratitude, SUU officials will give him a scholarship if he attends the university.

Most people would applaud Jared’s honesty. Sadly, though, not everyone. A number of people, posting to the CBS News website, called the young man a “loser” or “stupid” for not keeping the dough.

Apparently, they assume it’s reasonable to steal whenever one is unlikely to get caught. If so, wouldn’t it also be reasonable actively to pursue such opportunities — in short, to become a career criminal?

That makes we who work “suckers.”

If you’re going to live a moral life, it’s common sense to live it on principle. This means you don’t become an entirely different person, a crook, when it’s allegedly “easy” to do so. Easy, that is, for a person of poor character.

Starting life as a crook would have blighted Jared’s whole life. Instead, now he’ll always be able to recall his easy good deed with pride; and, happily, people who know him will be able to trust him . . . stuff that’s more valuable than money itself.

Paul Jacob's "Common Sense" is published by the Sam Adams Alliance. Their website can be visited at www.samadamsalliance.org.


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Comments

and when those noble americans who know his trustworthy nature exploit him until he is a used up husk of a man, he can look back fondly on returning a briefcase a rich entity lost.

# posted at by tylor

A fool and his money will soon part. The university didn't deserve to get the money back, he could have donated it to charity.

# posted at by common sence

He did what I would expect any self respecting man would do. Matter-of-fact he did what I would expect any honest person to do, male or female.
The temptation was there, I am sure but his principal morels intervened and he came out on top.

# posted at by Defilar

What have mushrooms got to do with it?

# posted at by Adam

Depending on the university's tuition costs, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that he may have gained as much if not more in a free education?

# posted at by alex

Depending on the university's tuition costs, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that he may have gained as much if not more in a free education?

# posted at by alex

... hopefully his positive act will inspire other people to act in a similar light.

my pessimism won't allow me to hold my breath waiting for it though.

# posted at by Redmage

Free ride + potential (not guaranteed,just more likely) income increase resulting from education > than immediate $100k. He didn't return that money, he invested it.

# posted at by walrus

["If you’re going to live a moral life, it’s common sense to live it on principle. This means you don’t become an entirely different person, a crook, when it’s allegedly “easy” to do so. Easy, that is, for a person of poor character."]

These words are hollow, there are many different "Moral" Systems; none are proven "morally correct". And, depending on the type of "Principle" (Say Scientific vs. philosophical), saying that it is common sense is ignorant. And judging someones character based on a specific action that they hold no obligation to commit is just as "wrong in principle"

In this case "Moral principles" are all fundamentally based on belief systems. Whether a person believes right and wrong are authored by god, or themselves, it is still their belief in such system which is the foundation; therefore, none are common sense.

In fact claiming that their are such principles would lead me to believe that you buy what the powerful want you to believe... that you should "always stay true to your beliefs". Which if you think about; if beliefs drive behaviors and behaviors +process = results, then if you alway believe something is "Right" even in the face of overwhelming evidence (like being honest, when it will cost you your life) then if a person, or group of people, know that you will alway be true to your beliefs, and always act in accordance with them, then they can easily manipulate you to get the result they choose (war in Iraq anyone).

So, no it is not common sense, nor is it right to give back money you find (or wrong), nor does it make you "dishonest if you chose not too, nor is being honest always "good".

Depending on which "Moral System" you subscribe to, the "correct action" varies. In all moral systems, there is no requirement that he seek out the owner of the money and return it to whoever left it on the ground to be deemed "honest". there is no guarantee that the university will, or is, using that $108k in a fashion that will generate greater "Moral Value" in the world as a whole.

The argument that a University Education has greater "Moral Value" is difficult to make in a system where big biz dictates the majority of the curriculum's to archive the outcomes that benefit them more than society (View the member list of the CFR and you will see that among the members are: the president, most of the congress, all major US banks, All Major Media Editors, ALL MAJOR UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS, etc...) This group meets regularly behind close doors to determine social, economic, and EDUCATIONAL policies.

So our government meets behind closed doors to discuses policy with the heads of banks...there in lies the rub.

In closing If you think a person should always act a certain way no matter what, you are a fool. I would bet money that you break your so called principles to suit yourself or when challenged enough.

Like "thou shalt not kill", but you condone killing everyday by not taking action against you own government for killing women and children daily....

Would you keep the money if you had prior knowledge that you, or your family, would starve, or become homeless, with out it? Maybe god decided that the university did not need it and intervened to have the man find it? hmmmm

Get off your high horse you simpleton. In principle you are part of the problem with this world.

And, Please do not use the fact that a large group of poeple believe as you and therefore it brings validity, 30 million Germans voted for Hitler, and I am pretty sure they were in error.

It is like the logic "We should all support our president even though he is fucking up; once a president is elected we should stand behind him as a country." It is a product of one of those "principles" And makes no sense.

# posted at by Ahab

I see no available method by which to rank actions as easy/hard in response to good or evil. Is it easier to take the money or is it in fact easier to return it. Human acts cannot be placed on a moral scale, one which was constructed by humans who are biased towards one of its poles.

I don't steal, but I sure would have taken at least half of that money and bought drugs with it.

# posted at by Patrone

I don't steal, but I sure would have taken at least half of that money and bought drugs with it.

# posted at by Patrone

I applaud this young man. He is a hero! It IS hard in our current time to find those with true integrity. "If you can be trusted in the small things it is more likely that you can be trusted in bigger things."

# posted at by Nellie

So, stealing is okay if the pot is big enough? If he kept the money, he'd probably blow it all like many do who suddenly come into money. An education will not only give him potentially more money, but he'll probably be wiser in how to spend it.

# posted at by DeAnna

Great story. I applaud this young person. He acted upon his moral beliefs. It's a temptation to keep the money he found. I am glad the university offered him scholarship and I hope he will accept it. He is neither a "sucker" or a "loser" but a modern day hero.

# posted at by Yilmaz

But I want to hear the follow up. How much money does he make now from that wonderful piece of paper they gave him?


If he even did go to school and even does work, how much equity did he lose in his house since Bushism.

Is making $10 an hour as so many college grad do now? (The wages for college grads are going DOWN.)

Does he make a 'living wage' with the cost of oil, groceries and health coverage? Is that even possible.

Then again, the $108,000 wouldn't haven't gotten him very far either.

# posted at by el Pedro

It bothers me that so many people think this man didn't do the right thin, or even think that the philosophical view that "stealing is wrong" is silly or elitist.

Ask yourself: What would society be like if it was normal, "moral" behavior to steal in a situation like this (even if it still is illegal)? The answer is simple: Ownership would cease to exist when it is convenient for it not to; and then it wouldn't really be ownership at all, but merely dominion. Since we all want to live in a society in which we have at least a limited right to our belongings (say, my personal savings minus tax), it isn't tenable to think that everyone should believe that we should steal when it's convenient. But since we believe that most people should believe in such a moral, isn't it dishonest, inconsistent, and unfair to believe that we are an exception? I happen to think that a moral isn't a moral at all unless it resists such exceptions, and I have a strong hunch that everyone else has the same intuition.

Morality isn't expedience. Of course, if you've committed yourself to morality as expedience, as many have claimed to do, this is a moot point. But I happen to think that you can't sincerely do that, and I bet some soul searching will reveal that you feel the same way.

Is there some set of circumstances under which I would steal the money? Of course there is; I have other responsibilities and moral commitments. I might use it to save my child's life, for example. But a very special exception doesn't invalidate the moral for normal circumstances, and I think your impulse to think otherwise goes to show that you believe that morality is, fundamentally, about resisting exceptions.

# posted at by EdibleComplex

What a bunch of generic, mindless relativistic drivel so many of you are spewing! Morality isn't an arbitrary social construction. That idea is as absurd as it is widespread.

What philosophers have known for ages, and what the sciences are uncovering recently (see for instance Marc D. Hauser's "Moral Minds") is that moral evaluation is a deep part of human nature, universal and constant across culture and time. Don't just blindly accept the "common sense" wisdom of relativism, look at the evidence for morality as a fundamental facet of human nature; it's there.

# posted at by chaospet

For those who use abstraction and pretzel logic to come to the amoral conclusion that there is no right and wrong,and thus a decision to keep the money is neither good nor bad, are either totally morally bankrupt, liberal congressmen or women, or Attorneys.

# posted at by lightart

For those who use abstraction and pretzel logic to come to the amoral conclusion that there is no right and wrong,and thus a decision to keep the money is neither good nor bad, are either totally morally bankrupt, liberal congressmen or women, or Attorneys.

# posted at by lightart

i believe he should have built a school in a third world country.

theres more nobel uses for 100 K.

# posted at by ehsaan

There is a Buddhist saying that goes: The straight arrow is the one that kills.

This act of returning the money to an institution which is not in need of it, and where there is no threat of exposure , and no law has been violated if you don't return it, smacks of the Straight Arrow.

In this culture, in this age, we find that only the Middle Class values honesty, Truth and such virtues. The poor cannot afford such attitudes and the rich have no use for them. And the more money they have, the less virtue they seem to have, in more or less direct inverse proportion. But in order to hold the country and the culture together, the rich cannot afford entirely to dispense with these virtues. Thus, it is extremely important for the rich that we in the Middle Class have highly developed sense of ethics and morality. Otherwise, they will have no buffer; everyone from the Middle class on down will be stealing their wealth at every turn. Their servants, accountants and their lawyers will rob them blind. Forget the IRS. This is, of course, very nearly the situation as it is now. And the recent gouging on the part of major corporations, credit cards, oil companies, etc. has shown us that nobody at the top has any ethics or moral principles left.

Religion once instilled morality as a way of keeping the flock from straying. Intrinsically, morality has little to do with a spiritual life. It is just a form of piety. Which itself is just a little add-on to the true spiritual life. But no more. Christianity is now about the Politics of Power and nothing else. God and Christ are only invoked to strike down one's perceived enemies. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and James Dobson, all of them traipsing in and out of the White House any old time they chose, and all of them the religious counsel of George Bush. They have shown us what Christianity is truly about: Satan has won the battle for earth.

And, believe me, I'm not much of a Christian but it still hurts me to have to say that.

This culture is 90% morally bankrupt. Except for the ever shrinking middle class. If this Third World climate is what politicians, corporations bankers and educators wish to nurture, then, so be it. And on their heads, too.

The kid should have kept the money.

# posted at by Bull Slam

What a fool. He returned over $100,000 and the university offered to give him a scholarship if he attends. He has now limited his choice of schools he can afford to attend and potentially stay out of debt from hundreds to 1. The university didn't even offer him a full scholarship, rather they said if he attends they would "foot part of the bill." The kid had foolproof funding to any university he wanted and he threw it away.

So what if he gets a warm fuzzy feeling when he looks back on his good deed in the future? A warm fuzzy feeling won't pay off college debt.

# posted at by Opportunist

I am appalled at all this BS moral relativism. Sure, morality is not God given and may sometimes be complicated, but you're only fooling yourself if you pretend the right action was unclear in this case. You may be able to rationalize other courses of actions, but the truth will always haunt you. What if you lost some money and someone found it, what would you want them to do? This idea of reciprocity can quite clearly and logically solve most moral problems.

# posted at by Al

"What a fool. He returned over $100,000 and the university offered to give him a scholarship if he attends. He has now limited his choice of schools he can afford to attend and potentially stay out of debt from hundreds to 1. The university didn't even offer him a full scholarship, rather they said if he attends they would "foot part of the bill." The kid had foolproof funding to any university he wanted and he threw it away."

He did not have any claim to the money. His whole life would be an undeserved lie if he kept the money for himself. I would be more understanding if he donated to a good charity, but that would still be donating money one does not have and thus is immoral even considering the good intentions. What if I suddenly start donating your food and car to poor people in Africa. I'm sure you'd be pleased. Doing the right thing is not about the fuzzies, it's because it is the logical and honest course of action. If all society acted as you suggest, everything would break down and it is just so obvious that it is wrong. Just because it would have helped him does not mean that this is moral. There is much more to consider than mere selfish interests. I suppose murdering your boss is moral too by this logic, if you are to replace him. There are often choices where one can get ahead but at the cost of stepping over others and taking things which one does not own. The kid was smarter than many of you and I would consider people with the attitude expressed by Opportunist as absolute scum undeserving of life itself (unless it was sarcasm).

# posted at by Bob

In this article you refer to a Moral life when you should say an ethical life. Morals is a religious term as if to suggest that people who do not believe in god could not be honest.

# posted at by Scott B.

"I see no available method by which to rank actions as easy/hard in response to good or evil. Is it easier to take the money or is it in fact easier to return it. Human acts cannot be placed on a moral scale, one which was constructed by humans who are biased towards one of its poles."

Just because it is a human concept does not mean it does not have logic or validity. I suppose Math is also irrelevant to you for the same reason. And I think you have to eat a lot of $hit to consider returning the money as easy as keeping it.

In response to "are either totally morally bankrupt, liberal congressmen or women, or Attorneys.," I don't think morality divides along party lines (I'm a liberal myself). It is more or less wired within all humans regardless of race, sex or other factors.

# posted at by Bob

Spammers- this is a case where maybe moral relativism and murder do mix. :P

# posted at by Bob

Looks like we've worn out the attention span of the internet, or at least the bottom 10% of it.

# posted at by EdilbeComplex

Finders = Keepers
Losers = Weepers

-Socrates.

# posted at by Anonymous

He did the honorable thing. I applaud him for that.

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