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Re: ethics of subsidized moonlighting

>moonlighting at tax payer's cost and federally sponsored tax exempt not
>for profit organizations going after private practices customers.
>what are the ethics of such practices?

I think this is an important question, and honestly, I am not sure what the
correct answer is. Here's a couple of thoughts. (BTW, none of this is to be
construed ex cathedra).

One argument is that doing binding on the side using equipment that is
partly subsidized with public funds is wrong on the grounds that private
binders are being compelled by law to support competition that, because of
the support, can underbid the private binders. Thus private binders are
unjustly required to bring about their own downfall.

The other side of the coin is that the public subsidizes many professions
that are in direct conflict with private business, and we think nothing is
wrong with it. For example, police detectives take business away from
private detectives. Were there no police detectives, the market for private
detectives would be much greater. Yet we think that it is a good thing that
all are taxed to hire police detectives.

My guess is that we think so because there is a great public good to be
realized by having police detectives, and this public good outweighs the
harm caused to private detectives. So perhaps the question that needs to be
asked is how substantial the benefit is to the public to have low-priced,
publically subsidized binding available, versus how much harm is caused to
private binders by the loss of this business. If the benefit is high and
the harm low, then there may be nothing wrong with it. If the harm is high
and the public benefit low, then subsidized moonlighting would be wrong.


Steven D. Hales
Assistant Professor                     email: hales@xxxxxxxxxx
Department of Philosophy                phone: (717) 389-4229
Bloomsburg University                   fax: (717) 389-2094
Bloomsburg, PA 17815

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