Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can money buy love?

Cook Islands currency. This story didn't unfold in the Cook Islands but their money is certainly stunning.
We stumbled across this news piece and were floored. Does love have a price? We may be showing our age here but back in 1993 there was a film starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore called Indecent Proposal. Remember that one? Some rich dude offers a couple a million dollars for a romantic night with his wife. It’s an interesting if uncommon ethical dilemma. They take a utilitarian approach, weigh up the costs and benefits, think they can hack any negative consequences and off they go. Of course it turns out that life is a bit more complicated than that (and as every ethicist knows, one downside of a utilitarian approach is that we can be awfully wrong when it comes to predicting consequences).

So what if a wealthy person turned up to your open house and offered you $140,000 for your cat? They’ve just paid over 2 million for the house, you may not be in need, but $140,000 might be nice, right?

One family thought so. The thing about this story is that the cat wasn't for sale. But, knowing that "everything has a price", the buyer of their house offered them another 140K in exchange for their family cat Tiffany. They decided to take the cash and leave the cat. Their 19-year-old son wasn’t too pleased. After all, he bought the cat himself.

But in the Sun Herald article mum justifies the decision thus:

“We’re thinking we’ll put $20,000 in a pile next to the cat and say to Sam: you choose.”

Interesting. Is this family selling the right values to their son? What about the family who purchased the cat for their child - will that child grow up thinking love can be bought? And what about Tiffany's say in this matter? I'm gathering she's not getting a commission.

What if this were not a middle class family but a family in need of money to pay for live-saving medical treatment?

My hope is that Tiffany is happy to stay in her home with her new owners.

If a mystery buyer or indeed Robert Redford strolled into your life, what would you do? (And, Sam well may ask, “what about the other $120K?)