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Should a Starving Man Steal Bread?

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Gregory Posted: Mon, Apr 19 2010 2:04 PM

One of the more famous scenarios posed in discussions of morality and ethics is whether a man is morally(ethically) justified is stealing a loaf of bread from a merchant to feed his starving family.  There's a collection of strong viewpoints from each pole and a large group in the middle who see both sides and have a hard time falling back on one position.

The quesiton I'm posing involves a third party, the passerby or "Person B," who observes the scenario, along with the man with the starving family ("Person A") and the bread merchant: 

Is there any moral justification to Person B , upon walking by and seeing Person A's plight, stealing from the bread merchant in order to feed the Person A and his family?

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There is another thread exactly like this already circulating. Its by Benjamin. Your answers lay there.

"It has been well said that, while we used to suffer from social evils, we now suffer from the remedies for them."

F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty

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Why can't the would-be bread thief tell the merchant, "I'll sweep the floor for a loaf of bread." Oh, there's probably a law against that.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
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xahrx replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 2:37 PM

No, there isn't.  In fact there is a stronger argument against it because their situation is arguably better than the starving man and his family, so why was this person so willing to help by stealing someone else's property when he had his own property to donate?  Charity can only include generousity with your own property, not someone else's.

"I was just in the bathroom getting ready to leave the house, if you must know, and a sudden wave of admiration for the cotton swab came over me." - Anonymous
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limitgov replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 2:44 PM

Why steal? 

Why not just ask people?

Someone is bound to give him bread.

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limitgov replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 2:45 PM

"Why can't the would-be bread thief tell the merchant, "I'll sweep the floor for a loaf of bread." Oh, there's probably a law against that."

 

thats an even better suggestion than mine....

 

this logic goes over the head of an evil person.

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MaikU replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:21 PM

No. End of topic :D

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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Nielsio replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:25 PM

Daniel Blueberry Muffin wrote:

Why can't the would-be bread thief tell the merchant, "I'll sweep the floor for a loaf of bread." Oh, there's probably a law against that.

At least in cartoons, people who can't pay in a restaurant end up doing the dishes. But yeah, that would be completely illegal in most countries.

 

Work for food? --> GO TO JAIL

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Marko replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:30 PM

Maybe you should decide what exactly is it that you are asking.

Do you want to know if the man should steal, or if it would be just of him to steal?

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Hairnet replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:36 PM

   I would like to point out that this situation is absurd. The idea that this famliy is so poor (involuntarily) that one couldn't afford bread. If property rights were correctly understood and enforced there would be no such situation. Think of how cheap food is today. Even if the food is low in quality, one can still afford some.

   We are talking about some 1930s situation where the government has basically screwed everything up (high unemployment, high essentials costs). If that is the case then the man should knock over a treasury vehicle and take the governments money, instead of bothering some other guy suffering in the same situation. 

 Is it correct to molest children if someone will anhiliate the world if you don't?  Stupid hypotheticals. No offense to the OP.

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William replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:43 PM

Not only should a man NEVER objectively steal EVER, it should be actively encouraged the bread vendor shoot the thief dead on the spot and put his head on a pike to discourage anyone breaking the law of the sacred property rights.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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Gregory replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:44 PM

Marko:

Maybe you should decide what exactly is it that you are asking.

Do you want to know if the man should steal, or if it would be just of him to steal?

Perhaps the post title is misleading.

 

The question is "Is a third party justified in stealing from someone in order to help another in need?"

 

The scenario is analogous to the government taxing individuals in order to fund social welfare programs (social security, medicare, etc.).      

My position is that as a 3rd party, you are not justified in stealing from someone in attempt to better someone else's situation.  If you truly care, you should contrbute what you yourself have.  It is morally comdemnable to theive from other, even if the end is "noble." 

 

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bloomj31 replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 3:55 PM

I think the question is: will a starving man steal bread and what will the consequences be if he chooses to do so?  In other words, don't make it a moral question, make it a practical question.

EDIT: Another way of asking the question is: do the laws of society apply to people in miserable/unfavorable/undesirable circumstances?  If you say yes, then if there is a law against stealing, the starving man will be in violation of it no matter his condition and is therefore subject to punishment according to the law.  If you say no, then the starving bread thief gets a pass and is essentially immune to the law.   

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Marko replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:03 PM

Libertarian natural rights ethics tell you what is contrary to justice and how justice can be restored. They don't tell you what you should do in a given situation.

A starving man should steal bread, except if he is unwilling to commit an injustice. Later on he shold return twice the amount of bread stolen plus interest, except if he does not wish to right his injustice.

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Drace replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:05 PM

"The idea that this famliy is so poor (involuntarily) that one couldn't afford bread. If property rights were correctly understood and enforced there would be no such situation. Think of how cheap food is today."

 

25,000 children die every day due to hunger. Half the world lives on less than $5 a day.

Absurd?

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Gregory:
The scenario is analogous to the government taxing individuals in order to fund social welfare programs (social security, medicare, etc.).

It's not proper to think an analogy is the real situation.  That defies what an analogy is and therfore its purpose.  Analogies make a point but are not THE point.  Analogies draw a picture of what you are talking about but they are not what is being addressed.  What is being addressed is more complicated and thus why some people make an analogy to point out the circumstances in order to simplify a complicated, complex event.  But analogies fail when it comes to actually addressing something that can't possibly be summed up in the analogy itself.  If the analogy is made concrete, then by definition it is not an analogy anymore, so be careful.

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Josh replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:15 PM

25,000 children die every day due to hunger. Half the world lives on less than $5 a day.

 

That is irrelevant to the point he is making.

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Joe replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:23 PM

Drace:

"The idea that this famliy is so poor (involuntarily) that one couldn't afford bread. If property rights were correctly understood and enforced there would be no such situation. Think of how cheap food is today."

 

25,000 children die every day due to hunger. Half the world lives on less than $5 a day.

Absurd?

 

 

I bet a lot of them live under oppressive governments.

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Joe replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:26 PM

 

Dondoolee:

Not only should a man NEVER objectively steal EVER, it should be actively encouraged the bread vendor shoot the thief dead on the spot and put his head on a pike to discourage anyone breaking the law of the sacred property rights.

 

Where did the vendor get the right to mutilate the corpse as he saw fit?  Surely the ownership of the thief's body would have been passed on to his or her heirs after death. Also, I am not totally sure if shooting a thief is a proportionate response.

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25,000 children die every day due to hunger. Half the world lives on less than $5 a day.

Exactly. Living under socialist governments sucks.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Sage replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:39 PM

Gregory, you might be interested in Long's discussion of proportionality and emergencies here (@ 34:00) and here (@ 9:40).

AnalyticalAnarchism.net - The Positive Political Economy of Anarchism

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Drace replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 4:41 PM

Exactly. Living under socialist governments sucks.

Half the world lives under socialism now?...

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Drace:
Exactly. Living under socialist governments sucks.

Half the world lives under socialism now?...

Are you saying that those 29,000 children who starve to death each day live under anarcho-capitalism?

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Dondoolee:
Not only should a man NEVER objectively steal EVER, it should be actively encouraged the bread vendor shoot the thief dead on the spot and put his head on a pike to discourage anyone breaking the law of the sacred property rights.

You're cruel, heartless, and ruthless.  I wouldn't want to be around you.  A show of compassion, honor, and dignity can go a long way, and indeed, you're a long way off from that.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Joe replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 5:03 PM

wilderness:

Dondoolee:
Not only should a man NEVER objectively steal EVER, it should be actively encouraged the bread vendor shoot the thief dead on the spot and put his head on a pike to discourage anyone breaking the law of the sacred property rights.

You're cruel, heartless, and ruthless.  I wouldn't want to be around you.  A show of compassion, honor, and dignity can go a long way, and indeed, you're a long way off from that.

 

oh yea, a rotting head on a pike is probably going to be 'bad for business'

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Drace replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 5:04 PM

Are you saying that those 29,000 children who starve to death each day live under anarcho-capitalism?

Are you saying that all non-anarcho-capitalist societies are socialist?

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All non-capitalist economies have, by definition, a degree of socialism.

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"Is there any moral justification to Person B , upon walking by and seeing Person A's plight, stealing from the bread merchant in order to feed the Person A and his family?"

Maybe. Of course he now owes the bread merchant the price of what he stole. As would the starving man if he stole it.

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Drace:
Are you saying that all non-anarcho-capitalist societies are socialist?

Btw, how would describe yourself? I.e. Anti-state, anti-capitalist, etc.?

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Joe:
oh yea, a rotting head on a pike is probably going to be 'bad for business'

Oh come on! (lol)  I look forward to bringing the wife and son down to the local grocery store to watch the flies and maggots circle and wiggle in flesh after a good axing.  The smell of the flesh in the hot sun before I think what we're going to buy to eat wets the appetite.  On days when the pools of blood run deep, I definitely get some bread after I punch my way through the trough so I's can dip it in those beautiful red liquid oasis formed only when the capitialist makes it rain.  If you go to our local one after a full moon usually they have all you can eat night and we all bask in the glory of a free cold, wet meal.laugh

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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William replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 6:06 PM

wilderness:

Dondoolee:
Not only should a man NEVER objectively steal EVER, it should be actively encouraged the bread vendor shoot the thief dead on the spot and put his head on a pike to discourage anyone breaking the law of the sacred property rights.

You're cruel, heartless, and ruthless.  I wouldn't want to be around you.  A show of compassion, honor, and dignity can go a long way, and indeed, you're a long way off from that.

 

Or, people like interesting things.  There is a reason why Jeffery Dahmer probably got more women interested in him than I ever will, or why ratings probably drop when the girl who "does what she wants" on Who wants to be a reality star?" gets kicked off.  And if piking a thief's head was the norm, it would, well...... be the norm;  and not too radically different than many ancient civilizations.

My major point though is that libertarians can (not all) behave like Saducess ("right" legalistic libertarians ) and Pharisees ("left" that only seems to define itself by it's ill defined legalism in opposition to the "right") two insignificant groups in a world full of Herodians.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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Dondoolee,

You really should have been at the Wal-Mart here last night.  I taped it so I thought this would be a great time to share it.

The high-priest, I mean store owner, came out and gave an exciting speech as you can see near the end.

Enjoy!

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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William replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 6:13 PM

wilderness:

Dondoolee,

You really should have been at the Wal-Mart here last night.  I taped it so I thought this would be a great time to share it.

The high-priest, I mean store owner, came out and gave an exciting speech as you can see near the end.

Enjoy!

 

It has been awhile since I witnessed the awesomeness that was Dragnet, thank you; and oddly appropriate.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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William replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 6:13 PM

wilderness:

Dondoolee,

You really should have been at the Wal-Mart here last night.  I taped it so I thought this would be a great time to share it.

The high-priest, I mean store owner, came out and gave an exciting speech as you can see near the end.

Enjoy!

 

It has been awhile since I witnessed the awesomeness that was Dragnet, thank you; and oddly appropriate.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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Makes me want to rent it.  I'm sure my wife never saw it.  I miss those laughing faces with the tongue sticking out.  I'm going to have to get used to this new laughing face in town - laugh

What's that face doing!  I'm having a hard time seeing the "laugh" in that face.  But that's what it says.

good night :-)

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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William replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 6:20 PM

Wilderness,

maybe you should pike it's head.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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lol, now that was good!

But you have to steal the bread and bring it here so we can dip it in the red liquid oasis.  Last time I tried to steal the bread it was a full moon and I almost got eaten.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Conza88 replied on Mon, Apr 19 2010 10:37 PM

Are you talking about rights? Does anyone have a right to steal anything? Nope.

If you are talking personal ethics, it is individual and as such the question is pointless.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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