Black Market Ethics
Is it ethical to exchange your money on the black market if you are visiting an oppressive regime? Former New York Times columnist Randy Cohen tackles this ethical query.
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
In a previous post, Big Think invited you to pose your ethical questions to Randy Cohen, the former New York Times writer who answered reader's questions in his column "The Ethicist" for over a decade. The dilemmas he tackled ranged from the ethics of moving to higher-priced unoccupied seats at a ball game to whether we're obligated to blow the whistle on a friend's cheating spouse. Here Cohen answers the third of five thought-provoking submissions. Check back next Sunday to see his response to the next question. (Responses will be released on Sundays over a period of five weeks.)
We are going to visit our daughter who is doing voluntary charitable work in a developing country. This is a very poor country with a repressive regime. There is a flourishing currency black market. By exchanging our dollars 'informally' we can receive 30%-40% more than from the bank at the official rate. Exchanging at the bank provides more hard currency to prop up a cruel leader; the black market recipient of these dollars may well make better use of them. We are normally law-abiding and would normally not visit this country were our daughter not working there. Do you think it would be wrong for us to take advantage of the blackmarket?
--Mavis Jarvis, upstate NY
Here is Cohen's response:
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.
- While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
- We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
- Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
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