What Would You Do?

02.21.134:26 PM ET

An Ethical Puzzle

So I just went to a Staples and bought an item worth $3.79. I was in a hurry, and I was thinking about something, Mitch McConnell or the fate of Medicare or the creator of Underdog or something, and I dashed out the store without paying. The item wasn't magnetized, you see. I got halfway across the street and realized: "Effin'ell, I didn't pay!" I wheeled around and went back in and paid.

The guy said to me, "You're an honest man." I said, "Well, yeah, I am." Self-satisfaction inflamed my breast. But then as I left I started thinking, well, how honest am I?

That is to say, what if I'd been three blocks away? Seven? Back in my car already? For four bucks? I cannot claim that I am absolutely ethical in this regard, I confess.

It seems there is an x axis of "distance from the store" and a y axis of "cost of item," and the line probably descends accordingly. If I'd had a $30 item, obviousy you make more effort. But I think for $2, I'd have just figured the gods owed me one that day. Thoughts, calculations?

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