Back in August I wrote a post asking people what their ethics were. It didn't get a lot of attention, but that's okay; sometimes getting people to actually think about their ethics is a tough sell, almost like talking about diversity.

An interesting conversation and then blog post by someone else has come up talking about ethics, in a way, and I thought I'd address the topic here. One thing that one finds when they start looking into the topic is that not only will people not fully agree on ethics, but sometimes points of view can be finitely directed or considered in a broad based way. Now that I've done all around it, here's the conversation, of sorts.

Over the past couple of years I've been doing a lot of writing for other people. I write blogs, articles, papers, advertising, and even web copy. There are a lot of articles on the web that I've written that aren't in my name. I know where many of them are; after all, I have the original, and from time to time I like to see how my content is being used. And everyone using my content puts their name on it, and pays me for the right.

I happen to be mentioning this to someone, and I mentioned that one of my clients this year was a college student who has paid me to write some papers for her on a particular subject. Frankly, when I was talking to the person I wondered about the ethics of writing college papers for someone else. After all, I went to college, and I spent a lot of time writing papers on topics that I didn't care about. I would never have conceived of asking someone else to write a paper for me. Yet, I knew many others who had someone write their papers for them; I'd just never thought about it.

Of course I'm not going to tell you who I wrote the papers for or what the topic was. What I will say is the person I wrote the papers for was working on a second degree, as she already had a degree, is working a full time job, and this degree has nothing to do with what she does now. In other words, it was a class in a subject that had nothing to do with what she's majoring in; an elective class. Truthfully, I don't know if the information was different if I'd swayed in my belief, since I didn't have to, but I did end up writing the papers, four in all, and got paid for them.

It's an interesting question overall. For instance, are my ethics compromised because I wrote something for someone who then put her name on it? I don't think so; happens all the time. Does it change because she's a college student? It might, but not necessarily. Charles Barkley wrote an autobiography that he didn't really write, put it out as his own work, then later said he'd misquoted himself in his own book.

There are many people that put their names on a book they didn't actually write, then market the book and make thousands. It's actually one of the top 3 recommendations most internet marketers make to those trying to learn how to make money. I've often wondered about this one because these guys then tout themselves as an authority on this subject and might not have ever read the book.

There are medical websites written by people who have no idea of what any of the topics mean because someone else wrote the content for them. Does that make them unethical because they accept this information, which is probably pretty accurate but comes from a questionable source, or is it just business? And, for the people writing it, what does it make them? After all, it turns out that most medical textbooks aren't written by physicians, but by researchers who may or may not have a medical background, and the people reading those things are taking care of us and, for the most part, doing a pretty good job. Goodness, even Supreme Court justices aren't doing their own research, but they make proclamations that sometimes change the course of our country.

In my opinion, most people's ethics come based on what the topic is. The person who wrote the blog post, which I'm not linking to, is a college professor, and the thought that one of her students could be hiring someone to write their papers would be something that would bother her. But where are her ethics on a topic that has nothing to do with her, such as abortion? Whichever side she chose, there would be someone on the other side that disagreed with her; would their ethic be questioned because they took a different position than her?

Not such an easy decision anymore, is it? It's kind of like the phrase that goes something like "I don't know art, but I know what I like." Everyone will have their position on what's ethical and what's not, and that's okay. I have my general thoughts on it as well. I know where my thoughts would be if I were put into the position of the test question asking "what if someone asked you to store something in your garage for one night for $20,000". I'd immediately say no because my mind would know there was something illegal and dangerous about it, and that's against my principles. But in other situations... who really knows?

Income is a thought changer. Will I do anything for money? Will you? Absolutely not. But there are questions we sometimes have to ask ourselves, and see whether we're comfortable with them or not. In this particular case I'm comfortable with any decisions I've made so far. Would everyone be? Depends on the ethics of income.

Lucky for them, they have to decide that for themselves.