"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
This week, a homeowner is so far up in his neighbor's business he should be paying rent, and some bro in Texas has this bro who cleans pools but things are totally not chill what with that pool-related committee appointment, y'know?
Without warning or consultation, our new neighbor cut down the trees that separated our properties, destroying our privacy and views. He had the legal right to do this — I checked with the county — but does he have an ethical obligation to mitigate or repair the damage or compensate us in some way? — J.T., GREENBRAE, CALIF.
Please tell me you're joking, J.T. Please tell me this is some kind of wonderful holiday season joke that we're going to unwrap and inside is an iPhone and Nintendo Wii and some other things that people love that are garbage and are signifiers of our cultural decline into wanton materialism. Please. Please, J.T. Surely you are jingle bell jingle bell jingle bell joking.
Because let me tell you something, J.T., if you are not joking, I am going to go back to school, something practical. Medicine is probably out of the question what with all the pre-requisite biochem classes and stuff. Law, maybe, or business. I'm going to get a real job, J.T., one with health benefits and steady pay, and I am going to move to California. Do you see how this is going to end, J.T.? Here's how it ends: I'm going to buy the property next to yours, and I'm going to teach you about property law. I'm going to teach you about envelopes and how far they can be pushed, including to what extent land can be poisoned before being deemed egregious by a court of law, how loud stereos can be played without incurring noise violations, and the psychological effects of 24-hour halogen illumination.
And then I am going to put you through a wood chipper.
I hope this helps.
My retired friend supplements his income by maintaining our community pool. I was appointed to a committee exploring ways to save money and learned that a pool-cleaning company could do the work for considerably less. My friend depends on this job and has few alternatives in our area. Must I report the company's quote? — W.M., GALVESTON, TEX.
I was going to just say that if you don't let black people in your pool, you'll probably save a ton of money on cleaning, but a) I'm sure you've already thought of that down there in Secessionist Sentral, and b) black people don't swim. You know what's funny? Hundreds of years of institutionalized racism.
In any case, you know what they say, W.M., bros before municipal recreational committee appointments.