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The Ethicist
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Via Gene Healy, has anyone ever read The Ethicist column in the New York Times?

Healy mocks it, and rightly so. Here's a sample:

At a restaurant, I was seated next to two young ladies who ordered beers. As soon as they produced their I.D.'s, I knew they were fake. Having worked in the bar-nightclub business for 15 years, I am adept at spotting fake I.D.'s. Should I have informed the waiter or, as I was not working, minded my own beeswax? Glenn Price, Stamford, Conn.

Your coming forward is permitted but not required. Here's one guideline: will doing so thwart serious imminent harm to a particular person? In this case, no. If you mind your own business, a couple of young women -- not toddlers, clearly, but old enough to pass for 21 -- will have a beer. Why is that bad?

But via Healy's comment section, here's Steve Martin, who mocks it to the full extent of its deserving:

I am going to a country where it is legal and socially acceptable to eat people. I would like to eat my brother-in-law, who will be on the trip with me and is Canadian. l am from Iowa. Would this be ethical?

I am sure cannibalism is illegal in Iowa, but I'm not sure about Canada. I would suggest you stop in Canada first, take your brother-in-law to a police station and eat his foot, and see if anyone objects. If not, you can feel assured that the complete ingestion of your brother-in-law in a permissive country is perfectly ethical.

And appropos of my last entry, there's this:

I am a sixth-grade teacher and would like to hang the Ten Commandments on the wall of my classroom. However. I am told that this is illegal. I'm not sure whether I should honor the Great God Jehovah, Lord of the Universe, or the Constitution of the United States. What should l do?

Easy. Change all the "Thou shalt nots" to "Don'ts." Cut the one about coveting your neighbor's wife (now regarded as "too little too late"). Change the word "Commandments" to "Suggestions." You now have "The Nine Suggestions." This should make everyone happy.

I'm thinking of my own question to write to The Ethicist:

I'm so detached from any sort of religious or logical moral framework that I find myself resorting to writing to a newspaper columnist to have them explain to me how to define my moral system. Does this make me immoral, or just pathetic?

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