Why Don’t You Steal?
Editor’s Pick. Written by Wendy McElroy.
As a starting point, I assume readers do not engage in the initiation of force, including theft. You may refrain from doing so because of a moral code or from a respect for rights. But, at least for me, the admonition not to steal isn’t written in stone. I hold my values in a hierarchy by which some are simply more important than others.
Jean Valjean is the fictional character from Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables. Valjean is sentenced to a brutal prison term for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving children. In his situation, with no honest ways left to obtain food, I would probably do the same. Equally, if my husband needed an operation to live and there was no honest way to pay for it, then I would steal.
The foregoing acknowledgement comes with context:
- It would take a life-and-death situation for me to use force against another human being;
- In stealing, I would freely admit I was violating libertarian principle and just laws. I would be legally guilty, and should be found so;
- I would provide restitution when I could whether or not I was caught;
- One reason I argue for the free market is because it provides bread and medical care at prices that do not require people to steal to survive.