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Nate
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How do you generally approach questions of ethics?

I've recently been doing some thinking about what makes a given means of generating money "ethical" or "unethical." Consider the following examples:

1) Playing Poker

Skip this if you already know poker isn't all luck.

Please do not respond about how poker is all luck. Contrary to what some believe, there is a large skill factor involved that, given a long enough period of time, removes the luck factor from the game. This is further evidenced by the fact that it is a player vs player game as opposed to all other games being player vs casino. You'll also notice the same names at the top places of most large tournaments. I'm not going to go into much detail here. This isn't the point of this post.

END SKIP

I don't see anything in particular that makes me think playing poker as a profession is unethical, but I have a nagging thought that "You are not adding any kind of value to society" if I am playing "professionally" rather than just for fun. I feel like I am just a drain on the economy or something. Does anyone have any insight here? Is this more of a personal issue than an ethical one?

ROOT QUESTION: Is adding value to society a prerequisite for an ethical means to make money?

2) Incentive Offers and Other Freebies

Assume XYZ company offers you a free widget for trying out their service. Further assume that you KNOW you have absolutely NO interest in XYZ's product and will definitely cancel during the trial period. Is it ethical to sign up and accept the free widget? Does it matter whether or not you give the service a fair shake? (actually TRY it)

I almost don't want to post this, but ...

2a) Is this an example of the "prudent predator" principle? If so, what do you feel the consequences of this action would be?

ROOT QUESTION: Do the terms and conditions of contracts between freethinking individuals determine what is ethical behavior between these parties, or are there other factors?

I could go on and on, but I'm going to cut this off here for now. I appreciate your replies.

Edited by Nate
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Interesting questions, especially about the poker. The way I see it you wouldn't be a drain on the economy at all, it would be quite the opposite since you would be making money and spending it. I'm not exactly sure how to answer the "not adding any kind of value to society" part of the question, but that is itself becoming less of a factor since some of the major tournaments are televised, and folks at home will be able to derive entertainment from your play. I would guess that something similiar would happen on an individual basis with your opponents. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you were a true poker afficianado wouldn't you be able to derrive some value from playing and losing to a superior player?

The implicit agreement involving the free widget is that you will try their product, so I'd say that it would be wrong to get the widget without giving them a fair shake. I'd say that if your had no interest in their product, but did try it out and ultimately returned it you wouldn't be doing anything wrong.

For your root question I assume that you are asking if it would be ethical for someone to essentially sell another person the rights to do something that would normally be considered a rights violation (signing a contract that allows another person to beat you daily for a set weekly payment). I would say that fulfilling such a contract would likely demean you as a person, lower your self-esteem, and basically be immoral. As long as no one was coersed or forced into signing the contract, such an agreement should be legal.

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I don't see anything in particular that makes me think playing poker as a profession is unethical, but I have a nagging thought that "You are not adding any kind of value to society"

Good question Nate. Objectivist ethics are based on the idea of rational self-interest. As such, it is neither moral or immoral to add or not add to society. I think the issue that may be bothering you is that "you should not consume more then you produce." With poker it feels like you are not producing anything and yet you can consume quite nicely after a few good hands. It may be similiar to inheritance in this way. If a relative dies and leaves you money, it is probably best considered ammoral. No effort on your part was required to create the wealth. In poker, little effort on your part was required to create the wealth. With a lottery win, very little effort is required on your part. Building a factory; great effort was required on your part.

So on a morality number line, if murder was a -10, stealing beer a -1, inheriting money is a 0, and building a factory a +9, then winning at poker would be a +.5 . So you wouldn't be hurting any one by being a professional poker player but you are not pursuing a course of action that will earn you a great deal of pride or self esteem. In that sense, it would not be moral, sense other courses would probably lead to a more fulfilling life.

Best regards

Gordon

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Thanks for the replies.

Lathanar, agreed. I think that as long as I'm not violating anyone's rights (i.e. cheating), assuming they freely decided to play, I am not doing anything wrong. I guess I'm also assuming that it is in my self-interest to play in the first place ... which wasn't assumed when I originally asked my question. I don't know how I could possibly expect someone else to answer that.

Gordon "aequalsa," I basically agree with everything you said except "sense other courses would probably lead to a more fulfilling life." Wouldn't simply being aware of this fact indicate that I am not making the best decision considering my rational self-interest, thus making my decision immoral?

LaVache, interesting point ... I, myself, derive some value from losing to players superior to me. I also hadn't considered the possibility that I am in some way contributing to the entertainment value "poker community." Even if I never made a televised appearance, surely I would have contributed to the tournament either by making it possible for those players to be there, or directly by entering myself.

" I assume that you are asking if it would be ethical for someone to essentially sell another person the rights to do something that would normally be considered a rights violation"

I guess I hadn't explained myself well enough. I was asking if there were any other factors to consider, ethically, besides what is written, either literally or implicitly, in a contract. I guess you answered my question when you said "I'd say that if your had no interest in their product, but did try it out and ultimately returned it you wouldn't be doing anything wrong."

Let me come up with a better example. Say Weight Watchers offered me a free digital scale for signing up for a one month free trial. Let's further assume that I'm 5'10" and weigh 125 lbs. Would you agree that it would be immoral for me to sign up for the free scale? Clearly, there is no possible way I would continue in their program.

Slightly different... let's say some video game rental place offers me a free 13" tv for signing up for a free trial for unlimted rentals at $9.95 per month. Now, say I don't really play video games now. I don't think it is completely impossible, but certainly highly improbable, that I would continue with this subscription.

Is this second scenario ethical? At what point would it be ethical? 0.000001% chance of continuing? 5%? Certainly there is a 0.000001% chance that some skinny guy would somehow decide he wanted to lose weight! Does this clear up my question (#2 from original post)? Obviously, I'm not expecting you to say "Oh, I'd say about x%." It is either wrong or it isn't. I don't see how the answer to the first scenario (weight watchers) could be different to the second scenario (video game rental), but I'm all ears ... err, eyes ... if you think I'm wrong. :thumbsup:

Edited by Nate
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It seems to me the "free trial" ethical situations are nothing more than a bargain. The company is betting that overall, by giving away "freebies" they will get more customers. And customers are getting the TVs.

The fact that in your individual situation the deal seems more in your favor than the companies seems a little irrelevant. In a free trade both parties are supposed to gain something of value. By not requiring an extended subscription, the company is essentiall just gaining the value of advertising and more initial trials. Thus by accepting their offer and canceling, you really have given them just that.

If transactions were judged on the value of just the individual value of the exchange and rather than overall scheme of trade, buying "loss leader" products at stores would be a sort of theft.

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Ayn Rand apparently thought that professional chess was a waste of time (2) so I doubt she'd have had much sympathy for poker either. That being said. if you enjoy playing poker and feel you can sustain yourself making money from it then sure, why not?

Edited by Hal
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Gordon "aequalsa," I basically agree with everything you said except "sense other courses would probably lead to a more fulfilling life." Wouldn't simply being aware of this fact indicate that I am not making the best decision considering my rational self-interest, thus making my decision immoral?

Yes, to be clear, it is probably, though not necessarily, less moral then other options available to you. In that being more productive is likely to make your self view and life in general better.

Realistically, if you were good enough at poker to make money at it, there is no reason why it has to be the only thing that you do with your time. Options available are to do it part time alongside another career or to do it for awhile, say 5 years or whatever is reasonable and invest that money later in something more fulfilling.

Actually, the realtor I bought my house from several years ago did something similiar. She was a stripper for like 10 years and then used the excellent money she made doing something probably unfulfilling to invest in real estate and became a realtor which seemed to suit her well.

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Actually, the realtor I bought my house from several years ago did something similiar. She was a stripper for like 10 years and then used the excellent money she made doing something probably unfulfilling to invest in real estate and became a realtor which seemed to suit her well.

Terrific ... use the unfilling as a means to the fulfilling. I must be SLOW tonight. Also, I'm not claiming that this alone makes it ethical. You would still have to decide that this is the best option available for your longterm well being.

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You guys snuck two in on me while I was typing!

First, this bargain question isn't just a hypothetical. It has real implications for me. I've done a few of these sites where you complete free trials and you recieve a free gift from the company running the website for doing so. (No, they are not scams ... mostly. I participate in forums that quickly reacts to those that are scams.) The sponsors are ultimately paying for you to try their products. I've since started to transition from a moral relativist to an objectivist, so I am now thoroughly examining my life.

Hal, thank you!

Vladamir, do you think you have to give the product an honest try though? why or why not?

What if there is nothing in the contract that states that you can only complete the offer one time? Do you think it matters if it is a paid subscription or not? For example, pay for one month of service, get $20 vs trial free for one month, get $20. The former case isn't a "trial" per se. I think it DOES make a difference, but I'm interested to hear what others think. I don't think there is any implied "trial" in the former case.

This also has significant implications. You see there are quite a few of these sites, but not so many sponsors. You end up seeing some sponsors over and over again. I know someone who has done the same offer 7 times!

Edited by Nate
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Please try to make the topic title at least somewhat relevant to the topic of discussion.

If you actually read Ayn Rand's "Open Letter to Boris Spasky" you might notice that she's not opposed to professional game-playing as such. What she is opposed to is playing games as a method of escaping from the necessity of dealing with reality.

There is nothing immoral about accepting offered money or goods, even if you seek out those offers. Nor is there anything immoral about playing games for a living. The thing I've noticed is that gambling in any form (or stripping, for that matter) is usually not a quick or easy route to riches that you can the apply to some other pursuit. If you don't like what you're doing now, you're never going to be good enough at it to finance some other profession.

Discovering your absolutely most loved thing in life, what you want to pursue as your ultimate career, can be extremely difficult and take a long time. If poker is what you've settled on, go for it. You may discover later that something else appeals to you more.

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Vladamir, do you think you have to give the product an honest try though? why or why not?

I would say giving it an honest try is not ethically required, although individuals may certainly choose to do so. This is because the offer doesn't require a honest try. The offeror has likely already calculated the percentage of people who will just "use" the offer to get the free goods and have no intention of being real customers, and still has decided to proceed with their offer.

Really, I think accepting the same offer over and over is a bit in bad taste though, it makes it look as if one is cheap.

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Vladamir, I mostly agree, but I don't see how "The offeror has likely already calculated the percentage ..." is revelvant to the ethical issue. Maybe it wasn't suppose to be and I'm looking for something that isn't there.

---

What the ? The new topic title is orders of magnitude worse than the original title. (gross exaggeration) First, the in the original title "how to WORK through ethical problems," the word work had a double meaning. Perhaps this wasn't clear enough.

This topic is NOT about whether or not poker as a profession is moral. It was about what makes a profession or other means of generating income moral (or immoral). Contract adherence? Added value? Something else?

Further, I was hoping for some insight on how people like to approach there own ethical problems. Perhaps these issues belong in several threads, but being a new member I did not want to start 39492849 threads.

Anyway, JSnow, "If you don't like what you're doing now..."

I couldn't agree more. Passion is almost a prerequisite for sucess on the highest level of ANYTHING.

Enough of this for now, I'm going to start a thread about MP3s.

Edited by Nate
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If you don't like what you're doing now, you're never going to be good enough at it to finance some other profession.

Hi Jmegansnow,

I disagree with this statement if you mean it absolutely. Otherwise all of the people who bartend to work their way through college to be an engineer,etc can't actually exist. I do agree that it is usually easier to make money at a job you enjoy and the more you like it the easier it is, which certainly increases your chances for success. However, that does not mean that you cannot make money at something you don't enjoy. Career choices for most people are relative in that they could be happy at a number of things but try to do that which makes them happiest. I think that would apply if you were doing something you hated, but not if you simply did not enjoy it as much. For most people that follow this route with their longterm goals, they enjoy their earlier jobs because they are stepping stones to the later values they desire. I suspect that roark didn't enjoy working in the quarry(Or more applicably, the construction jobs that he did before school.) as much as drawing but he did not resent it in any way and was in all liklihood good at them.

Best regards,

Gordon

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Don't forget the value of product-placement in your home.

The people who are most likely to take advantage of a freebie offer without giving it an honest try are those most likely to boast to their friends about it. If the company gets a few acceptances of trial-offers from those people and even one decides they like it then the point of the offer has been successful. Yes, they might all just take the freebie and run, but since it's all planned for under the company's advertising budget it's still spreading the product around :fool:

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I disagree with this statement if you mean it absolutely. Otherwise all of the people who bartend to work their way through college to be an engineer,etc can't actually exist.

This statement only has validity if you assume said bartenders actually hate bartending. I didn't say they had to LOVE it, I said they had to LIKE it, as in, derive some satisfaction from it, even if said satisfaction is only the knowledge that they can pay the bills. I've had to work with people that hated their jobs; they rarely lasted more than three months and they made everyone else that worked there miserable in the meantime. What I didn't understand was why they'd go get an identical job somewhere else and somehow expect a different result.

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This statement only has validity if you assume said bartenders actually hate bartending. I didn't say they had to LOVE it, I said they had to LIKE it, as in, derive some satisfaction from it, even if said satisfaction is only the knowledge that they can pay the bills. I've had to work with people that hated their jobs; they rarely lasted more than three months and they made everyone else that worked there miserable in the meantime. What I didn't understand was why they'd go get an identical job somewhere else and somehow expect a different result.

Ok...I figured you meant something like that. Thanks for the clarification.

I have known people like that as well. Typically, the seem to not have financial needs; that is, they have someone else paying for their existence and lack the motivation that the real world provides. I agree completely that the more they enjoy their jobs the more productive they will be at them.

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A professional poker play lives by their own skill and effort. Everything they do is voluntary free exchange, and they aren't hurting anyone. They aren't producing anything per say, but if we use that as the judging factor of "not evil" - that pretty much lumps 50% or more of existing jobs (ie, entertainment, luxury food services like restaraunts, ect) into the same dubious category of holding no objective survival value (and therefore not being moral), which would be a bit ridiculous considering the persons involved aren't being looters or parasites or any of some such stuff.

Is it "moral" in an active sense (ie: are the being "creators")? - Not really.

Is it "moral" in a passive sense (Ie: being "fine")? - Definitely.

It's pretty much in the same category as day trading, professional race car driving, professional boxing, or any other profession based on the mastery of games or sport or the manipulation of money. If people want to do it, and can do it successfuly, I nor anyone else has any right to criticise or condemn them for it as long as they aren't infringing anyone's rights. Good for them if it makes them happy.

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It seems to me the "free trial" ethical situations are nothing more than a bargain. The company is betting that overall, by giving away "freebies" they will get more customers. And customers are getting the TVs.

Are there actually companies that give away products as expensive at TVs, in exchange for a free trial? With no catch? I want a widget. :lol: Where do I sign up?

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Are there actually companies that give away products as expensive at TVs, in exchange for a free trial? With no catch? I want a widget. :lol: Where do I sign up?

Uh, in many cases, much better than tvs for trying a few different products. I pmed you since I don't want to spam the forum with advertisement or referral links.

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I think if you are smart enough to make a living playing poker, you are probably not taking full advantage of your talents. This is unlike, say, a race car driver who doesn't have a "normal" career he gives up.

Also, most casinos "discourage" professional players. You should consider the untenability of gambling as a life-long career when evaluating its morality.

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Also, most casinos "discourage" professional players. You should consider the untenability of gambling as a life-long career when evaluating its morality.

While your second sentence is of course true, in my experience your first sentence is not true when it comes to poker. This is because in poker, the casino makes money in a different way than it does for something like blackjack. In poker, the house does not play. It has no stake in who wins any particular hand. It makes its money by taking a "rake," which is a percentage (up to a certain max, usually a few dollars) of every pot. Contrast this with blackjack where it is you versus the casino.

Thus, casinos do not discourage professional poker players. In fact, in light of poker's recently acquired popularity, I would guess that casinos would encourage professional players because they can become celebrities. That way, the casino can get a reputation for being "the place where Phil Hellmuth plays," and thus attract people who want to "beat the best." That's an interesting thing about poker. Unlike something like baseball, in poker you can play with the best if you have the money.

As to your comment about taking full advantage of one's talents, I recall that Paul Phillips (made lots of money in the dot-com and now plays poker very well and with some regularity) expressed a similar sentiment at one point. I think it's online somewhere if anyone feels like looking for it.

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I think you are both right to some extent.

Some casino's seem to place a value on having regular cardroom characters (with celeb. potential) as you've stated.

I'm specificially disinterested in large tournaments mainly because I do not want to attract attention to myself at this point in my life. I value my privacy.

Anywho, some casino's don't seem to care one way or the other because, as you stated, atleast on a hand to hand basis, it doesn't matter to the house who wins.

I've been to some casino's that seem to think regular big winners naturally increase the number of regular big losers. The casino fears that the regular losers will stop playing, and thus, so would some of the winners due to the decrease in losers to support them.

Basically, almost every card room manager has his own idea on this subject. I've never bothered to figure out which is correct because I don't see how it would matter to me.

Add to this that some cardrooms, especially larger ones, have several managers. This causes some very conflicting messages to be sent to the professional player between and/or within casinos.

Edited by Nate
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  • 2 weeks later...

In terms of production, the professional poker player can be viewed as producing entertainment. Casinos actually rely on professionals sitting at their tables for long periods of time, so that the tables always have people playing. Some casinos will even pay professionals per hour to sit at their table.

With chess (as with poker), the rules may be arbitary but they are fun! To become a professional is an achievement, not an escape from reality! It is exactly the same as the "arbitrary" rules of football, basketball, soccer, etc. It is fun! The professional is the producer of entertainment and this is a value to people.

That my above 2 paragraphs are not immediately obvious to people here, pretty much summarises why I am not an Objectivist. That Rand's comments on chess are taken seriously astounds me.

This article astounds me further: <link removed>

Unbelievable.

Edited by softwareNerd
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