Kwame Anthony Appiah is the New York Times ethicist, and I assume that means he is responsible for maintaining a high level of ethics for the paper’s readership. One of his readers recently wrote to him and wanted advice about whether or not it was ethically right to “disinherit” their adult children.
Here is the twist…this reader, who is also a grandmother, wants to make this move because of her adult children’s political views. They keep a conservative platform, think that the 2020 presidential election may have been stolen, and do not believe in the efficacy of the vaccine.
What do you think the ethicist had to say? He told the grandmother to “Go for it.” Appiah did say that the reader should not do it as a way to get revenge on her children, though.
Instead of giving her inheritance to her children, Appiah said that the reader should give it to her granddaughter. He said that the children could spend the inheritance on right-wing causes that were “destructive.” And he said that was at least hope that the grandchild would rebel against her parent’s political stances.
The reader was unnamed but had the opinion that the problem had to do with the fact that her children were getting their news from the internet and didn’t read the mainstream press. Because of this, there was political division within the family.
The grandmother said that her daughters grew up in a very progressive home, but they have taken the opposite side politically now that they are adults.
“One of my daughters also does not believe in the vaccine and did not have my granddaughter vaccinated. I do not discuss politics with them any longer. The worst thing of all to me is that they believe the election was stolen,” the reader stated.
This grandmother said that she was worried about the well-being of her granddaughter. She said the girl hears all the conversations in the family and believes that her parents are telling her the truth. This has caused the reader to feel hopeless, and she is now considering giving all her money to a good cause instead of her family.
Appiah started his response sounding like he would offer fair, if not ethical, advice. He said that the children of the reader were not necessarily evil but just didn’t have all the facts. It looked like Appiah was not going to paint this as a moral failure in the family and would then give advice on how to mend the relationship.
But the advice from Appiah took a twisted turn. He said that he was on the reader’s side and so was the evidence.
He said that Biden did win the election and COVID vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing severe illness. Then, he went on a rant blaming the conservative media for pushing false news and creating divisions within families.
He referred to the reader’s children as “errant offspring,” and called them “wrongheaded.”
“So don’t change your will because you’re angry and upset with your prospective heirs. A better reason is that people with their views are doing a great deal of harm,” Appiah wrote in response.
He said that to keep the money from ending up in the “wrong hands,” it should be given to the granddaughter who just might use it for more progressive work. He ended his advice by stating that it was the reader’s estate, she raised her daughters, and that is what was owed them. What happens with the inheritance is totally up to the reader.
So, these ethics are coming from one of the nation’s top newspapers. I wonder how Appiah qualified for his job?