“I score!” The Finders/Keepers concept

We teach our children that when they find something lying around, they should ask whose it is (even money / especially money), and/or hand it in at the nearest office.

We know exactly that someone at that office will in all likelihood accept the R100 or so that has just been handed in, and stick them into their own pocket, with a “Yay!  I score!  Silly kid, he could have kept it!”

And yet we teach our children not to hang on to found property.  Why?

In my son’s school, children who are honest enough to hand found money in at the office, are honoured on stage in the hall at the next school assembly.  I like the principle of them being highlighted like that.  One could think of several ways in which truly crooked and wily kids could still abuse this; and one could of course think of ways in which this is moot – e.g. if even one person at the office is not honest enough that when the true owner of the money comes asking, they’ll simply say, “no, sorry – nobody handed any in”. But if one can put aside one’s jaded South African experience and believe for a moment that this school is truly trying to create a more honest world with more honest people, it gives tremendous hope.

Now for the prize question.

If you saw R200 lying in the road.  Would you, like in the old days, go and hand it in at the nearest police station or would you regard it as “pennies from heaven” and pocket it?

The philosophies divide here, I expect.  It is now truly an issue between you, yourself and yous.  Because the chances are 100% for the South African police to pocket that bit of small change; 0% for any citizen to come to their counter asking if anyone had handed anything in (nobody does).  So handing it to the police is literally making a donation from an anonymous person to the police.  Asking around whose it is, in the street, will result in someone claiming it in 2 seconds – more likely, ten people claiming it and asking if you have more.  And if you pocket it, the only person who will ever know this is you.

Was there ever a world in which handing it in at the police worked (i.e. the original owner saw his money again)?

And what about your karma/conscience/soul?

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10 thoughts on ““I score!” The Finders/Keepers concept

  1. Used to be. But in South Africa today, there is so little honesty left – and very little morals and ethics. Can you ‘hear’ I’m moedeloos in and about SA these days. I’ve lost my hope for SA that I used to have. :(.
    PS no prob re answering.. as long as you saw it and know I was thinking about ALL of you xxx

  2. If I was walking on the street and found cash, I’d take it, I won’t lie about that. In a shopping centre/mall I’d take it to management only if there was sort of ID with it so the rightful owner can get it. Does it make me a horrible person? Well, if the original owner is never gonna get it back why should I go through the trouble of handing it in?

    • Not at all: It makes you a realist, as opposed to an idealist. That’s really all this discussion is about. The only judgement on this one is one’s own.

      Is it “morally better” to be an idealist than a realist? Or is idealism “stupid”? I have friends on either side of that fence, and me myself and I are sitting on it (in triplicate).

    • 🙂 Exactly the kind of conversation I was hoping for…

      The 2 key questions to answer this are:

      1) If one is trying to work towards a better world (idealism), shouldn’t one start with own personal principles?

      2) Karma / soul / cosmic balance… if you “pay in” you’ll get your reward in “intangibles” (more idealism, but widespread ones)…

    • … and then again it might even be your karma that makes you the lucky one to find the R200, in which case it is cosmically deserved by prior good deeds.

      Hmm. Tricky one.

    • In essesnce, no easy single answer. Overriding principle would be honesty – but not to the extent of contributing to someone else’s dishonesty. Thus, if the authorities are known to be dishonest, one would not hand it over to them. No other way of making it possible for the owner to claim? Keep it. If substantial, then some ads with proper burden of prooof might do.

  3. In days of yore I found a purse as I was crossing the bridge into town.
    Now Chester is not tiny (Pop. 50,000) so the purse, which was old and battered, and hidden by leaves and stuff could have been there for ages. But there was quite a lot of money in it. At least fifty pounds, which was a lot to a thirteen year old!
    The police station was just over the bridge – a high rise building that was the Police Central for the county of Cheshire – so I handed it in, leaving my name and address.
    Two week passed and I got a call from the cops that an elderly lady had been to collect it and would the police kindly give the young man five pounds by way of a thankyou for being so honest.

    Ah, yes. Wouldn’t likely happen today though.More’s the pity.

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