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The bum who stowed away aboard Dagny's train

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I don't remember the specifics of that story. He commited a rather petty crime. Its more akin to a parking violation than it is to armed robbery. There are legal things someone can do that are more reprehensible. I think that he would pay the fine given by the courts and the fee for the ticket , and then maybe write a letter of apology. After that he is in the clear by my book.

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I was wondering about the morality of this act. He was essentially stealing, which is wrong,  but he was also attempting to save his life by looking for a job and couldn't afford the means to travel, which is noble. He came clean about it when asked. What is his moral status?

He was a good person caught in the midst of bad times.  He was trying to find work so he could stay alive.  He apparently  had no malicious intent nor did he damage life and property.  In tough times,  it makes sense to cut some slack.  If some one did that today and he was not a habitual trespasser,  just about any court will let him go with a warning and a suspended sentence.

 

ruveyn1

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I was wondering about the morality of this act. He was essentially stealing, which is wrong,  but he was also attempting to save his life by looking for a job and couldn't afford the means to travel, which is noble. He came clean about it when asked. What is his moral status?

You're trying to evaluate him by comparing him to someone who follows a set of absolute rules. You're saying that he failed to follow the rule "don't get on trains without a ticket", but did follow the rule "look for a job". 

 

But morality is about choices, not commandments. The moral ideal is not someone who follows all the rules, but someone who makes the right choices whenever he is faced with alternatives. The so called "rules" are just context dependent consequences of more fundamental philosophical principles. 

 

The question is, did he make the right or wrong choice, by getting on the train? I think it's a pretty easy question (yes). While it makes perfect sense to always abide by the rule "don't get on a train without a ticket" in normal, everyday life in a free society (because it is the selfish thing to do), it makes no sense to try and import that rule into his context. Instead, one must make the moral evaluation of his choice, given his options, based on more fundamental principles. 

Edited by Nicky
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I was wondering about the morality of this act. He was essentially stealing, which is wrong,  but he was also attempting to save his life by looking for a job and couldn't afford the means to travel, which is noble. He came clean about it when asked. What is his moral status?

He is living according to the truism, "It is easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission."

 

The hobo has essentially cast himself into a lifeboat situation by believing his illegitimate action is justified as a defense of life.  His moral status depends on the reality of the situation, and dealing with the owner of the lifeboat who may choose to cast him out.  Taking responsibility for his actions in a desperate situation, and having a willingness to face the consequences of those actions, implies an ethical thief, but a thief nonetheless.

 

It would be interesting to know if the hobo had gone undiscovered and got the job, if he would have voluntarily repaid his fare as restitution.

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^ ^ ^

 

drowning men will grab onto any rope end they can,  no matter who owns the rope.

 

Doesn't Ayn Rand make a distinction between emergency situations and normal situations?

 

If a fire suddenly broke (life or death situation)  out you would grab the  nearest extinguisher whether you owned it or not.

 

ruveyn1

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The bum knew his actions were wrong, was willing to get off at threat to his own life, but consider that he was stealing from a thief. Taggart Transcontinental has looted from the entire nation. Is it okay to take from those who have taken from you? Is it okay to deal with others by the principle with which they have treated you? Is this justice?

Edited by aleph_1
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Okay, he didn't slow down the train muc, so what.

 

The extent to which his actions affected the train doesn't change whether or not he is moral. The question was essentially asking if he should be considered a no-good moocher for stealing a free ride on a crumbling railroad line.

 

You wouldn't say "a thief stole $100 dollars from a billionaire, and that doesn't really hurt the billionaire, so what?"

 

The point to be addressed here is, should we consider the bum immoral for taking something he didn't earn. And IMO the answer is found in what he does when he is caught, which shows his true character.

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All in favor of throwing the bum off the moving train say Aye.

 

All in favor of putting him off at the next stop  say Neigh!

 

Now vote.

 

ruveyn1

It is insanely immoral to kill someone for being a hobo. That still doesn't resolve the morality of his actions. In the condition he found himself, I would do the same. I would squat on vacant property. I might glean from a farm. (I haven't heard that term in a coon's age.) I would do a great many things I would not normally do. Stealing would not be high on the list though.

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