Decisions… when measuring them I’ve come up with three dimensions to judge them by.

  • Is it legal?
  • Is it ethical?
  • Is it honorable?

At first glance it seems as though each is a subset of the previous one. But I don’t think that’s the case. You can have something that’s ethical that’s not legal for instance.

Some things are easy — if something is all three then you have a win all around. Stop wondering and go ahead and do it already. You already know that the world will be a better place. Similarly if something meets none of the categories, you’ve pretty much got evil on your hands.

But let’s see if we can start going through the list…

Legal, Ethical, Honorable: Awesomeness! Rainbows and unicorns all the way!

Legal, Ethical, Not Honorable: Sleeping with your best friend’s ex. They broke up so it’s fair… but it seems dodgy for the most part. Especially if you don’t ask.

Legal, Not Ethical, Honorable: A Catholic nun helping a young girl get birth control. It goes against the writings of the Church, but it’s going to serve the higher good as she sees it.

Legal, Not Ethical, Not Honorable: Wall Street handing out mortgages to people they knew could not pay them. -or- Sleeping with your best friend’s wife (without permission).

Not Legal, Ethical, Honorable: Medical marijuana. The federal government and most states say it’s not legal. On the other hand this helps many people who are suffering lead a much better life. You run afoul of the law and take your chances with it.

Not Legal, Ethical, Not Honorable: The prototypical “crack whore.” It’s certainly not legal and the end isn’t honorable either. Why is this ethical then? I think it’s a transaction between two consenting adults (hopefully) and no one is cheated out of something they had before the situation.

Not Legal, Not Ethical, Honorable: Covering up for your friend who’s just broken some laws. There is honor amongst thieves.

Not Legal, Not Ethical, Not Honorable: See also: Chaotic evil.

Did I miss any marks? Do you disagree? Do you agree?