What is the right (ethical) thing to do with money that has landed on your lap? I recently won $500 based on a workplace recognition award. My nomination was based on strong achievements in the workplace over the past year, but the final selection of the top five nominees was random. I feel that the money would be better served by donating to a charity - but I am interested in whether there is a moral obligation to do so. I am very financially secure, and do not "need" the money

Great question. Some philosophers believe that the distribution of property should be governed by utility or happiness. So, some utilitarians might well contend that you are obligated to give disposable (non-essential) income or wealth to those whose welfare is worse than yours and who would (probably) benefit from the bequest. Some political liberals like John Rawls argue similarly that goods should be distributed to the less fortunate, thus seeking to correct the ostensible unfairness of the fact that some of us have greater goods than others (and this is often not based on merit, but on inheritance or the good fortune of being born in good health, and so on). Robert Nozick, on the other hand, would hold that you are entitled to your good fortune, seeing that you did not receive it unjustly and, you at least partly earned it (even if the final matter was determined by lottery). I am inclined to this later position on the grounds that the utilitarian approach would put us on a slippery slope requiring burdensome re-distributions and Rawls' fairness principles would not be sustainable without regular, intrusive government control. So, with Nozick, I am inclined to think you do not have a duty to give the money to those in great need, but that it would be good for you to do so. If such an act were known, it might well motivate others to give. You might even offer the funds in a matching fashion: you will match gifts by co-workers to Oxfam dollar for dollar up to $500, thus doubling the amount given for famine relief. On the other hand, while I think such a course would be noble, it might bring resentment ("are you trying to be like Jesus or something?!"). Speaking of Jesus, while secular ethics often leaves you some room, for persons in the Abrahamic faiths, giving to those in need is considered a religious obligation (a show of love); giving alms is one of the pillars of Islam. So, if you share such religious values, giving the money away would be a spirited act.

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