Welp, I'll wade in, though I'm curious whether the posters in this thread are interested in actually having a true debate on this topic, as opposed to biding their time or answering just to toss in their BTC.02.
For me, ethics, morality, and free will are topics I'm personally very interested in discussing, so here's to a spirited debate!
In the spirit of debate, I will start with the absolutely most important question that no one in the thread has asked:
is it moral to play if you get in early?What system [of axioms] of morality is the basis for making this assessment?
Or is it immoral to participate in an activity that is guaranteed to enrich a relative few at the expense of the relative many?
All answers to this point have been implicitly prefaced by "Well, I think that...." Because we are all approaching the question from different axioms, without answering this question, it is impossible to judge the validity of a particular answer --- no one knows where each other is coming from. The closest that I've seen is from the OP:
Maybe the ethics question depends on whether it's individual morality or public policy.
So caveat emptor, keep it honest, and game on!
Furthermore, I'd wager that most people haven't considered the question enough to know where they themselves
are coming from, making the discussion even more pointless. This is evidenced by the fallback to the "illegal = immoral" inconsistency, or the flawed comparison that capitalism does the same thing, and capitalism is accepted, so therefore this should be accepted (though with more than a hint of sarcasm).
Judging by the analysis in the thread so far, there are very few, aside from the OP, who have considered their own moral beliefs, much less who are interested in discussing the actual morals
of the situation.
Side note before answering the OP's question (sorry, this has been bugging me):
Is it morally right to play the game if you get in early, even when you know it's designed to eventually fail?
Doesn't it fall upon the person who claims that it is morally wrong to show that it is so?
I would strongly argue that the law of the excluded middle does not hold in this moral debate, subject to the moral axioms of the particular answer. In this case in particular, I view the OP as asking for a constructive answer to the moral permissibility / impermissibility of entering into this "game," though I will of course defer to his judgment.
As to my answer, my axiom would be the Golden Rule / Categorical Imperative.Basis for action
- "I am entering the game because I know my position and the rules of the game. I enter the game expecting to receive 2x my contribution." [I will abbreviate this as "the situation."]
- Although it can be derived from the axioms stated, let us take as granted that I could not morally participate in the game if doing so would permit me to receive money from people that did not understand the situation upon entering.
Application of the Golden Rule
- All players contribute the same amount. This lets us consider the game as a binary tree.
- Every player knows their position in the tree before entering. In other words, we are not considering concurrency issues.
- All players currently in the game knew the situation before entering.
So let us say that I enter the game. In order for me to receive my payout, I must have 2 children in the game tree. In order for me to morally participate, my 2 children must participate under the same conditions that I have. Easy enough.
However, in order for me to have 2 children in the first place, enough players must join to complete my level of the tree and to fill the next level until my children are reached. Under the conditions of my moral participation in the game, all of my siblings and nephews (and nieces) must have joined under the same conditions that I did --- otherwise, my payout would be predicated upon someone else immorally receiving money; alternately, those players would not have joined if they were not aware of their situation without violating my moral participation in the game.
We can unroll the recursion to my kids --- under the golden rule, if they must be able to morally join the game under these same conditions --- my kids' nieces, nephews, and siblings have all joined the game under the same understanding of their situation. Otherwise, my kids could not have morally joined the game, which would jeopardize my
moral participation in the game in the first place. We can continue unrolling the recursion as long as the game is played. It must be noted that this situation holds even after I receive my payout.Synopsis / tl; dr
Under the system described, you can certainly participate in the game morally, so long as everyone that joins after you participates morally as well (i.e., understands their situation). However, should any participant not understand their situation in respect to the game, then collecting any money from the game (even if you collected it before they joined) cannot be proven to be moral. In other words, if you wish to participate in the game morally, you take on the responsibility that all players after you join are participating under the same conditions (relative to their positions) that you joined under. While logically sound under the axiom of the golden rule, it is intractable from a practical perspective. Therefore, if you wish to behave morally under the system of the golden rule, you cannot reasonably participate in such a game, even if you know the rules beforehand.