Question: Should a person always care to work or earn money? Most people need to work to earn their bread, so to speak. They need to be productive – and be paid for that – to survive. However, that's not true in all cases. Perhaps someone has inherited enough money to provide for his life, or he has won the lottery, or a spouse can provide for the two of them. That person still needs a purpose in life to work toward, but must that purpose be productive, in the strict sense of creating material values? Might the person reasonably choose to spend his time studying subjects of interest to him, without any other goal in mind? Might he choose to spend the rest of his life travelling? Or producing art for his own personal satisfaction? Could such a person live a happy, virtuous, and meaningful life?
Question: What kinds of charities are worthy of support? Many people laud donating to charities, but they don't seem particularly concerned with which charities they support. However, I'd like my charitable dollars to do some good in the world – and do me good in return. So when is it proper to donate to charity? What kinds of charities are worthy of support or not? How can I judge the effectiveness of a charity? Are local charities better than national or international charities?
Question: Is a person responsible for his incapable sibling? Imagine that your brother (or sister) is not capable of taking care of himself: he makes poor choices, he has poor work habits, and he is emotionally immature. Are you thereby responsible for him? Should you try to help as much as possible, so long as you don't drag yourself down? Or should you refuse to help on the principle of "tough love," even though that won't help him take care of himself? If you take the latter approach, doesn't that mean that you're foisting the care for your sibling on society? Wouldn't that be shirking your responsibilities as a sibling? Also, does your responsibility depend on whether your brother is incapable due to his own choices, as opposed to merely bad luck?
Question: Are materialistic couples less likely to have a lasting relationship? A recent study by Brigham Young University claims to show that concern for money causes stress in a relationship and that people who love money tend to be more impersonal and less passionate towards their loved ones. Is that right? Does it reveal some defect with a morality of worldly values?
Question: How can I politely decline outings with friends that I cannot afford? Recently, a friend proposed an outing that was far too costly for my limited budget. In such cases, how do you recommend telling the person that it's too pricey? If the person then offers to pay my way, is it wrong to accept that? I don't want to be an object of charity, nor pressure my friends into paying for me in any way.
Question: What is the proper purpose of bankruptcy laws? When should a person renegotiate his debt with lenders, if ever? Should a person be able to wipe his debt clean by going into bankruptcy? In your 10 July 2011 webcast discussion of strategic default on mortgages, you suggested that a person shouldn't be able to do that, but shouldn't lenders be responsible for who they lend money to?
Question: How can young adults learn to use credit cards responsibly? Some young adults (usually college students) seem to make terrible financial decisions, often getting themselves into serious and overwhelming credit card debt. Others seem to handle their new financial responsibilities just fine. How would you recommend that parents teach their teenage children to use credit cards wisely? What advice would you give to young people headed to college about managing their finances well?
Question: Is "extreme couponing" moral? Earlier this year, the Boston Globe wrote about people who engage in "extreme couponing." Basically, they find ways to redeem store coupons in a fashion that still abides by the rules, but they get free stuff out of the deal. Are these people moral, or are they parasites because they don't actually live by trading value for value? Are they violating rights?
Question: How should a person deal with filial responsibility laws? In your April 10th webcast, you discussed the morality of taking care of elderly parents. Some states have filial responsibility laws, which would force people to take care of indigent elderly parents. How should a person would cope with such laws in practice?
Question: Is it moral to strategically default on your mortgage? Suppose that you could continue to pay your mortgage, but you're underwater: you owe more than the house is worth. You realize that you'd save tens of thousands of dollars by defaulting. Would it be morally wrong to default, assuming that you don't engage in any fraud or other dishonesty in doing so? Would it make a difference if you do that in today's highly regulated market versus in a fully free market?
Question: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? Suppose that a man and a woman have sex, and the woman becomes pregnant – even though the couple used contraception based on a shared and expressed desire not to have children. If the woman decides to raise the baby, should she be able to collect child support from the man? What if they'd never discussed the possibility of pregnancy? What if they didn't use any form of birth control?
Question: Is it my responsibility to look after my parents in their old age? Should I expect to support my parents financially and/or care for them as they get older? More generally, what responsibilities do adult children have towards their parents, if any?
Question: Is it moral to have a sugarmomma or sugardaddy? My fiancee and I both have demanding careers, but she earns several times more than I. How should a married couple with very different incomes share income and/or expenses? If we agree to split household expenses evenly, my lower income is a significant constraint on her enjoyment, e.g., she can't buy an expensive house because I can't afford half of it. On the other hand, if we split expenses unevenly or if we treat all income as pooled, it seems that I'm benefiting lavishly from things I didn't produce. Is it moral for me to enjoy an expensive hobby which I couldn't have afforded on my own? I'd love to hear more about how you and Paul manage income and expenses, and especially what ethical principles apply.
Question: Are college degrees worth the price paid for them? Do they offer a good value for the investment of time, effort, and money? Why or why not? And if not, how might a person obtain a solid education in the humanities instead?
Question: Ought non-income generating activities such as child rearing, dancing, making friends, etc., be properly considered an exercise of the Objectivist virtue of productivity? In response to my question in an OAC class, Dr. Ghate stated that he interprets Rand's writings to mean that such activities, while rational, ought not be considered "productive" by her definition of the term. Upon further research, I agree with Ghate's interpretation of Rand, but I think I disagree with Rand here. Is it not unusual that someone who chooses motherhood as a career, for instance, is disqualified from practicing the virtue of productivity (assuming she does no other work for pay)? None of the other virtues exclude any rationally acting adult from practicing them. If productivity need to be redefined, would you have an alternate definition to suggest?
Question: We are sometimes forced to choose a professional endeavor out of financial necessity rather than professional passion, leading to difficulty in motivation and decreased creative output. How might one improve effectiveness under those circumstances?
Summary: I answer three questions on romantic relationships concerning (1) friendship after a failed romance, (2) romance between people of very different philosophies, and (3) managing finances in marriage.