Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Reblogged:Stealing Is No Longer a Crime in Italy, Not If You’re Poor

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Stealing is not a crime, Italy’s highest court ruled this week — when small amounts of food are taken in desperate need.

The ruling was in the case of a homeless man named Roman Ostriakov, who in 2011 was caught stealing a sausage and some cheese from a Genoa supermarket.

Ostriakov had hidden the goods, worth about $4.50, under his jacket as he paid for breadsticks. He was arrested after a customer informed the store’s security of the theft; and in 2013, he was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail.

This week, however, the Supreme Court of Cassation overturned Ostriakov’s theft conviction, ruling that stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime. The case has drawn comparisons to the story of Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables.”

“The condition of the defendant, and the circumstances in which the seizure of merchandise took place, prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of an immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of necessity,” said the court, according to CNN.

What do you think? Should stealing only be a crime – sometimes?

The Italian Supreme Court thinks so.

The court is saying that “necessity” — or need — trumps rights. The moment you say that, all rights are out the window. If I can claim that my need overrides your rights, then I can claim a need for just about anything. Isn’t that what politicians do every day when they redistribute other people’s money? This petty thief chose to skip the middleman.

Some people would voluntarily not press charges in such a situation. But that’s not the point. The point is whether it’s legal to steal, at least if your need is considered by some external authority as strong enough.

In America, the government uses need and “necessity” to justify a $20 trillion dollar debt-laden welfare state. The premise of that welfare state is that because some people need, they must get. And the government’s primary job, in a welfare state, is to see to it that those who need do get. $20 trillion is a heck of a lot of starving people in need, through no fault of their own, isn’t it?

So in a way, if you agree with this Italian court’s decision, you’re in good company, and that includes in America. Look at our two presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton wants the welfare state even stronger and bigger. Donald Trump (read his books) does not oppose the welfare state; and, in fact, he supports raising taxes and says he will make sure everyone is taken care of, if he becomes president. “He” can only mean the government; otherwise, Trump would start a charity foundation, not run for president.

The root of this court decision is the much older idea that we are all each others’ keepers. Saying that you are another’s keeper is not merely a way of saying it’s nice to help another, if you can, if you choose, and if the person suffers through no fault of his or her own (an often evaded point). It’s an assertion of the idea that precisely because another needs help (regardless of why), you are – by the very presence of that need – morally and even legally obliged to help.

That’s the principle this court upheld.

If you take this idea all the way, then you get a court decision like this one. You also get a $20 trilion dollar debt-laden, unsustainable welfare state like America has, as well. Or you get a totally bankrupt and ruined welfare state like Italy’s European neighbor, Greece. Property rights no longer exist, not in principle. Once property rights are gone in principle, then any property you are permitted to keep is only because the government says you may. The government becomes your parent, your true sovereign; you are no longer your own.

I use this story not merely as one more piece of evidence that much of the world has gone crazy (although it has); instead, I choose to use it as an opportunity to challenge this ancient idea that we, as individuals, owe our lives to others merely because they claim a need. Is someone else’s need a right to your property, your well-being, or even your very life?

If so, then you should immediately drop everything you’re doing, and live solely and only for the sake of others. Because if you’re prepared to impose this principle on others, by supporting the welfare state and agreeing with decisions such as this Italian court’s, then you must be prepared to walk the talk every hour and day of your life. Rest assured, there are many judges, elected officials and others prepared to hold you to it. Nothing can stop them, other than your own conviction and willingness to say, “My life belongs to me, and nobody else.”

Follow Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael  Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1

Dr. Hurd is now a Newsmax Insider! Check out his new column here.

The post Stealing Is No Longer a Crime in Italy, Not If You’re Poor appeared first on Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. | Living Resources Center.

View the full article @ www.DrHurd.com

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...

Doctor, what was the alternative, him starving to death? But Objectivism says follow your self-interest. Objectivism says don't sacrifice. If he had just laid down and died and not "inconvenienced" anybody, that clearly would have been a sacrifice of his life by any reasonable definition. Or is sacrifice actually morally required in some cases in Objectivism? You can't have it both ways, Doctor.

Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Doctor, what was the alternative, him starving to death? But Objectivism says follow your self-interest. Objectivism says don't sacrifice. If he had just laid down and died and not "inconvenienced" anybody, that clearly would have been a sacrifice of his life by any reasonable definition. Or is sacrifice actually morally required in some cases in Objectivism? You can't have it both ways, Doctor.

Take a look at my post in the stealing thread: 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Doctor, what was the alternative, him starving to death? But Objectivism says follow your self-interest. Objectivism says don't sacrifice. If he had just laid down and died and not "inconvenienced" anybody, that clearly would have been a sacrifice of his life by any reasonable definition. Or is sacrifice actually morally required in some cases in Objectivism? You can't have it both ways, Doctor.

Emergency situations give rise to the possibility acting morally for your self interest causes a violation of someone else's rights, if only temporarily.

See the same thread referred to by Epist.  I give an example of violating a person's rights to SAVE their life... where that person is a value to the rescuer.  Emergencies are particular situations.  It should be remembered that morality and rights are not the same thing.

Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Or is sacrifice actually morally required in some cases in Objectivism? You can't have it both ways, Doctor.

Rand's answer would be that in emergency situations like this, there is no right or wrong moral answer for the person in that situation. As for legal repercussions, that's a separate issue. Hurd's approach to addressing this misses the real contention, that is, does a person opting to steal or else die deserve punishment? I'd say yes, even though I disagree with some here on why stealing is not immoral here.

Quote

 

"Every code of ethics must be based on a metaphysics--on a view of the world in which man lives. But man does not live in a lifeboat--in a world in which he must kill innocent men to survive.

Even as a writer, I can barely project a situation in which a man must kill an -innocent- person to defend his own life. I can imagine him killing a man who is threatening him. But suppose someone lives in a dictatorship, and needs a disguise to escape. If he doesn't get one, the Gestapo or GPU will arrest him. So he must kill an innocent bystander to get a coat. In such a case, morality cannot say what to do.

Under a dictatorship--under force--there is no such thing as morality. Morality ends where a gun begins. Personally, I would say the man is immoral if he takes an innocent life. But formally, as a moral philosopher, I'd say that in such emergency situations, no one could prescribe what action is appropriate. That's my answer to all lifeboat questions. Moral rules cannot be prescribed for these situations, because only -life- is the basis on which to establish a moral code. Whatever a man chooses in such cases is right--subjectively. Two men could make opposite choices. I don't think I could kill an innocent bystander if my life was in danger; I think I could kill ten if my husband's life was in danger. But such situations could happen only under a dictatorship, which is one reason not to live under one."

- Q&A session of the Ayn Rand lecture, "Of Living Death" (Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q&A)

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Rand's answer would be that in emergency situations like this, there is no right or wrong moral answer for the person in that situation. As for legal repercussions, that's a separate issue. Hurd's approach to addressing this misses the real contention, that is, does a person opting to steal or else die deserve punishment? I'd say yes, even though I disagree with some here on why stealing is not immoral here.

 

That was not her answer. See from my post linked above...

 

Quote

"The rational principle of conduct is ... always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values, and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.

This applies to all choices, including one's actions toward other men."

...

"It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions."

- The Ethics of Emergencies, The Virtue of Selfishness

Why aren't you presenting the unequivocal statements of Ayn Rand in her original, definitive work, "The Ethics of Emergencies", written to address this very question, featured in the canonical book of Objectivist ethics, "The Virtue of Selfishness"? Why instead have they taken these other comments - which are highly contradictory to the canonical position of the Objectivist ethics, from an obscure Q&A session given years later, on a lecture concerning a very different subject - as not only the more important and more defining, but apparently the only position that you even bothered to consider here?

As Ayn Rand states in "The Ethics of Emergencies" very explicitly: morality always applies, to all of one's choices. When one is dealing with the circumstances of an emergency, that is merely another instance where one must apply their moral principles. You can always have a "long-term outlook of flourishing" and act accordingly, regardless of what situation you find yourself in currently.

Devil's Advocate makes great points -

Quote

"It has been interesting to me that ethics don't belong in a lifeboat but morality does belong on a desert isle ... If I do whatever it takes to survive a lifeboat and arrive at a desert isle, am I really going from an amoral situation to a moral one? ... I'm inclined to believe that ethics in a lifeboat are as necessary as morality on a desert isle"

...

"My argument with this particular Objectivist premise is that I believe morality is as important in lifeboats as on desert isles, and particularly more so because it is at those times while under duress that what we really believe in can save or sink us"

... 

"Being under duress doesn't make theft a virtue, therefore stealing under any circumstance isn't justified.  You said (and I agree), "Of course, how someone finds themselves in a lifeboat situation is still up for moral evaluation."  Moral judgement isn't suspended just because you find yourself in a lifeboat or in a desert."

How can you say that morality applies on a desert island - and that it doesn't apply on a lifeboat?

StrictlyLogical also points out the reality that emergencies are still situations where man has a choice and must act - and therefore where morality must apply:

Quote

 

"None of this, none of the considerations of moral responsibility remove the FACT of reality that a man who chooses to live must still act somehow in an emergency.  Ignoring whether or not he individually can act in accordance with moral principles, he does face the choice to act, he has his past, his values, the context of situation and the possibility of the various outcomes.  Those choices he faces may be more or less in accordance with rationality, the standard of morality, with himself as beneficiary... the choices exist and as such they are not unanalyzable.  In an emergency a man faces better and worse choices... particularly in consequence to his life and values...only a nihilist or a skeptic would say the choices are ALL EXACTLY EQUAL ... In the end there still is an objective morality"

...

"the question becomes rather uninteresting as it is the application of known principles in a particular context"

 

 

Edited by epistemologue
Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate Epistemologue's intellectual honesty and earnestness even if I don't agree with his conclusions.

Guys, you can't just punt on what you call "emergency situations" or "lifeboat situations". When you read works by real ethicists, they're chock-full of scenarios where a person's life or many people's lives are on the line and the moral agent in question has to decide what to do according to the ethical system in question. Real ethics, while not exclusive to these kinds of scenarios, takes them into account when devising and reasoning about ethical systems.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now with that out of the way, Epistemologue, your ultimate argument from the "Stealing" thread (and please correct my paraphrase if you feel I'm misstating it in any way), is that although in certain cases the desperately poor and starving may be required to 'die on that hill' (as you put it) in order to avoid stealing food, ultimately this is not a sacrifice because doing the proper Objectivist thing in this scenario will bring the world one step sooner to an Objectivist future in which biotechnology has advanced to the point where they can be resurrected and have eternal life.

The problem I have with this is that although you say this isn't a sacrifice to me it still sounds an awful lot like a sacrifice. And in the case that this biotech resurrection machine is impossible, or if it takes so long to invent and built that the bodies have hopelessly decayed, it will indeed have been a sacrifice and it will have been some of the poorest, most vulnerable people who will have been asked to make this sacrifice. At best, the poorest, most vulnerable people will have been asked to postpone their self-interest for what would seem to be at least thousands of years, while those who "have theirs" will get to indulge in their self interest immediately.

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

I appreciate Epistemologue's intellectual honesty and earnestness even if I don't agree with his conclusions.

Guys, you can't just punt on what you call "emergency situations" or "lifeboat situations". When you read works by real ethicists, they're chock-full of scenarios where a person's life or many people's lives are on the line and the moral agent in question has to decide what to do according to the ethical system in question. Real ethics, while not exclusive to these kinds of scenarios, takes them into account when devising and reasoning about ethical systems.

A few points.

1) My post was made to show that there is not as much agreement about emergency situations as you seem to think. I posted my position and why I think Rand would agree.

2) You're right that just labeling things "lifeboat situations" isn't intellectually responsible. To use the term, lifeboat situations must be defined clearly. As far as I saw and studied, for Rand's position, there are emergencies like a burning building that -don't- suspend moral standards for the person able to help. Then there are emergencies like dictatorships that -do- suspend moral standards for the person forced into a situation which renders any "moral" decision a subjective one.

3) Objectivism would contend that fictional "scenarios", even if realistic, are not a proper way to develop moral principles. I think most people who are inclined to virtue ethics would agree. Deontologists and consequentialists would probably think scenarios are proper and fair game.

(I'll respond to Epist in the other thread)

Edited by Eiuol
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/3/2016 at 0:05 PM, Dustin86 said:

Now with that out of the way, Epistemologue, your ultimate argument from the "Stealing" thread (and please correct my paraphrase if you feel I'm misstating it in any way), is that although in certain cases the desperately poor and starving may be required to 'die on that hill' (as you put it) in order to avoid stealing food, ultimately this is not a sacrifice because doing the proper Objectivist thing in this scenario will bring the world one step sooner to an Objectivist future in which biotechnology has advanced to the point where they can be resurrected and have eternal life.

The problem I have with this is that although you say this isn't a sacrifice to me it still sounds an awful lot like a sacrifice. And in the case that this biotech resurrection machine is impossible, or if it takes so long to invent and built that the bodies have hopelessly decayed, it will indeed have been a sacrifice and it will have been some of the poorest, most vulnerable people who will have been asked to make this sacrifice. At best, the poorest, most vulnerable people will have been asked to postpone their self-interest for what would seem to be at least thousands of years, while those who "have theirs" will get to indulge in their self interest immediately.

Sorry, I need to clarify... my argument has not been that "not-stealing" is the right thing to do because it's the best way to live, in the long term. My argument was just that, supposing your goal is to live, then not-stealing is the best way to do that.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I truly don't see the difference.

On one hand, Objectivism is asking those who are poorest and most vulnerable to (at best) postpone their self-interest, indeed to postpone their very existence, until "conditions are better" for their existence, on the hope, the mere hope, that of all things a resurrection machine will be invented in the distant future which will resurrect their dead bodies at a time deemed more "opportune" for their existence. On the other hand, Objectivism is telling the richest, those who "have theirs", to go ahead and indulge in their self-interest right now, not in some hypothetical future.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Dustin86 said:

I truly don't see the difference.

On one hand, Objectivism is asking those who are poorest and most vulnerable to (at best) postpone their self-interest, indeed to postpone their very existence, until "conditions are better" for their existence, on the hope, the mere hope, that of all things a resurrection machine will be invented in the distant future which will resurrect their dead bodies at a time deemed more "opportune" for their existence. On the other hand, Objectivism is telling the richest, those who "have theirs", to go ahead and indulge in their self-interest right now, not in some hypothetical future.

Objectivism neither "asks" nor "tells" what you have alleged.

 

The resurrection machine is not part of Objectivism.

Action in furtherance of rational self-interest is not an "indulgence" according to Objectivism.

Objectivism is not directed to the "poor" or the "rich", it is directed to human beings, volitional and capable of rationality, and if it asks or tells anything it is the same for everyone.

 

Clearly, you misunderstand Objectivism.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Objectivism neither "asks" nor "tells" what you have alleged.

Epist did, not Dustin. What Epist proposes I think -does- lead to what Dustin says, and is a piece of why Epist is wrong on this. There is an implicit assumption that some prolonged "waiting" is fine for life, that we can assume eventual resurrection and sit and hope for it. All the while, people in a more fortunate position don't need to wait. It's what I see as a Futurist Christian position, hardly Objectivist in spirit. It requires redefining what life is. Epist perhaps would say he's fixing some errors he sees, but it's nothing Rand argued for.

Dustin, keep in mind there is no "official" answer to any of this. This is probably the least agreed upon topic in Oism, and Rand wrote little about it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/5/2016 at 6:10 AM, Dustin86 said:

I truly don't see the difference.

The justification for not stealing is based on the concept of individual rights which derive from the nature of man. It is not based on what seems most likely to support one's physical survival in the range of the moment; the ends do not justify the means.

Now as a separate issue, suppose your goal is to support and prolong your physical life (a very fine goal to have), what is the best way to go about that? 

Should you stomp all over the consent of other men, steal what they produce, negate their mind, and treat them as slaves? Is that actually going to be effective in the long term? It might be effective in the short term, just as cutting a man's throat to steal his wallet might buy you a meal today, but no, that is not going to be effective in the long run. In the long run to be successful you will need to trade with other men, voluntarily, and to mutual benefit, as rational producers who share a common nature (a rational mind), and a common cause (rational self-interest). The creative work of free men under capitalism, the political and economic system of individual rights, has done more than anything else could possibly do to extend the life expectancy and quality of life of man, through the advancement of knowledge, science, technology, and economic productivity.

In the face of physical death, the only hope for man to rely on in the very long run is the nature of man's mind, and the benevolently lawful and intelligible nature of the natural universe. If man continues to choose to advance his creative work to the limits of what's possible in reality, and continues to hold the moral system which such work depends on, then, and only that basis, we may find that even overcoming of physical death (through some kind of resurrection) is possible in reality.

So the best way to pursue this goal of supporting and prolonging your physical life in the very long run is to hold to the moral and political principles of individual rights and capitalism by refusing to steal from another man.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...