By timestaff
November 28, 2007

by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ

Question: I recently learned that the owner of the gym I go to is a big contributor to a presidential candidate I despise. I hate the thought of my money going to this opportunist’s campaign. But the gym is the only one in 25 miles with the equipment I need to rehabilitate my shoulder. What should I do? I see too little of my family as it is to spend an extra hour in my car whenever I need to exercise.

Our Answer: There’s no law of ethics requiring you to boycott enterprises owned by people whose politics you disagree with. But given your strong feelings, it’s perfectly reasonable to consider quitting as a symbolic gesture, even if the loss of your one membership doesn’t have much impact on the contributions made by the owner.

Consider the old joke: A guy says, “Doctor, my arm hurts in two places,” and the doctor says, “So don’t go to those places.” In a similar vein, if you can’t stand the thought of a portion of your membership fee ending up in the war chest of someone you abhor, you shouldn’t give the gym your business.

What you can’t do is have it both ways. You can’t have a gold star for wanting to shun the place and a pass that allows you to go there anyway. Instead you have to choose between two equally honorable options: standing by your politics or having more time with your family.

We can’t tell you how to make this trade-off any more than we can tell you how much to contribute to the candidate you do support. All we can suggest is that if you do decide to change gyms, you try out the next closest one, and the commute that goes with it, before canceling your current membership.

Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of the upcoming book “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at FlemingandSchwarz@right-thing.net.

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