A and I were discussing Charles Ponzi….she had read about him on
and she talked of the man’s “amazing audacity”.
Audacity….is that good, or bad? I was thinking about it.
What Ponzi did was clearly unethical; there’s no dilemma about it. But..there are opportunities that a few of us recognize, and even fewer utilize, to make money in the financial world.
Let me cite two examples:
In the days when zero-interest credit cards were being provided, someone made a lot of money by leveraging the credit on many cards at once.
At a time when companies were listing on the stock market and were offering allocation of shares at par prices, someone applied under the names of all the family members and made sure their chances of allocation were very much higher than applying under just one name. The allotted shares, of course, appreciated a lot in value, much more so than the same shares bought later in the open market.
Both of these were legal ways to make money, and it depended on their ability to spot the opportunity (it’s no longer possible) and make use of it.
Most of us would not make money by such means, for several reasons:
We would not even be aware of such an opportunity.
Even if we were, the sheer hard work that would be involved in such procedures would, in our estimation, not be worth it.
The risk in such procedures would be unacceptably high for us.
There are two ways to look at people who utilize such opportunities, (or, sometimes, loopholes in the rules) and make money: one might call them “smart” or “sharp”. The second term, which I have heard often, somehow seems to have rather a negative connotation.
So…is the using of such opportunities ethical or not? I’m not able to answer this…if the law allows somethings, and the rules do, is that unethical?
D has a yardstick to measure any act as ethical: “If everyone did the same thing, would it be sustainable, or would it harm or hurt people?”
That makes it easy …when one is sitting in an armchair having an academic discussion. But in real life, everyone does NOT do the same things; so…the few who see the opportunities and use them….are they being savvy or being unethical?
It goes down all the way, to even small actions, I think. I’ve just been replying to a couple of theatre groups who asked me to come and review the plays they are staging…and I had two options: one, to say I was out of town and couldn’t do the review, and two, to say I was abroad and couldn’t do the review. I typed out the second statement…and I know that it’s more glamorous to make the latter statement, and it will better keep me “on the radar” until I get back to being a regular reviewer….but somewhere, somehow, there’s a twinge of unhappiness (not true repungnance, or I wouldn’t do it) that I should only make the first statement.
What do you think? How does one call the grey areas?