Explore the trouble money can buy with this ethical dilemma

FEW ISSUES RAISE more ethical and moral questions than money. While money might not be the root of all evil, it’s certainly the source of plenty of mischief. The federal government loses billions of dollars a year to tax cheating and evasion, and that doesn’t even account for money lost to the creative, but legal, accounting practices that often make the news around tax time. Ethics Finances

Most Scouts and Venturers don’t earn enough money to have to pay income tax, but money can still raise ethical and moral questions for youth. The fictional dilemma described here lets you and your Scouts or Venturers explore some of those questions through a simple scenario. You could also adapt it to use with Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts.

The Dilemma
Crew 610 is on the road again, heading out of state for a big backpacking weekend. Near the state line, the crew stops at a truck stop for a bathroom break and snacks. As the adults fuel the van, the Venturers head inside with one of the younger Venturers, Eli Turner, in the lead. Crew President Makayla Marbury is close behind Eli and sees him pick up what looks like a $20 bill. As Makayla watches, Eli glances around furtively and sticks the bill in his pocket.

Makayla isn’t sure what to do, so she does nothing. Fifteen minutes later, however, as the Venturers are climbing back into the van, she sees Eli emerge from the store with a huge bag of snacks. Knowing that Eli usually carries little money, she deduces that he has spent the money he found. As Mrs. Sullivan, the crew Advisor, is putting the van into gear, Makayla says, “Stop. We have a problem.”

Makayla asks Eli and Mrs. Sullivan to step out of the van. Once they’re outside, she tells Mrs. Sullivan what she saw. When the Advisor asks Eli for an explanation, he simply says, “Finders keepers.”

Is he right?

For Discussion
Begin the discussion by exploring these questions with your Scouts or Venturers:

  • If you found a $20 bill on the ground, would it be OK to keep it? What if you found $1? What if you found $50? If the amount makes a difference in your answer, why?
  • If you found a wallet with a $20 bill and a driver’s license in it, would it be OK to keep it? Why would the presence of the driver’s license make a difference (assuming it does)?
  • Would your answer be different if there were witnesses? Why or why not?
  • Would your answer be different if you were on a Venturing trip or on the way to a religious service? Why or why not?
  • Would your answer be different if you really needed the money? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever been in a similar situation? Describe it and tell what you did. 

Brainstorm other actions Eli could have taken and list them on paper or a whiteboard. To keep the discussion focused, talk about each option separately. These questions can help you explore options the Venturers are likely to suggest:

  • Leaving the money where it was
  • Is Eli abdicating his responsibility by doing nothing? Can doing nothing be more ethical than doing something? In what circumstances?
  • Does leaving the money alone increase the chance that the money’s owner will find it? Does that matter?
  • Does it matter that the money’s owner might already be miles away from the truck stop?
  • Giving the money to a truck-stop employee
  • Does turning in the money increase the chance that its owner will find it? 
  • What can the employee do, assuming the money’s owner doesn’t return?
  • Isn’t Eli just transferring his ethical dilemma to another person? Does that matter? 
  • Does it matter that the money’s owner might already be miles away from the truck stop?
  • Sharing the money with the other Venturers
  • Does this option reduce Eli’s guilt, assuming he’s guilty?
  • Does this option make the other Venturers guilty, assuming you think Eli is guilty? (After all, they didn’t pick up the money.)
  • Giving the money to charity
  • Does this option reduce Eli’s guilt, assuming he’s guilty?
  • Should Eli tell the recipient where the money came from? Why or why not?

After you’ve discussed the various options, rank them in order from most to least ethical. Challenge each Venturer to choose the most ethical option if he or she is ever in a similar situation.

Applying Scouting Values
Close the discussion by repeating the Scout Oath and Scout Law together. Point out that Scouts and Venturers promise to be trustworthy and help other people at all times (among other things) — promises that rely on a thoughtful approach to tricky situations. 

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