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Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Would you have a problem robbing a bank if you knew you wouldn't get caught? Why or why not?

Asked by Espiritus_Corvus (17274points) February 10th, 2011

Let’s say you are being threatened with foreclosure. You have kids at home that need to be fed. Your unemployment has runout. You have run out of options. Remove the threat of getting caught and punished from the equation. Would there be any other reason why you wouldn’t do it? And if you did, how would you justify it?

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89 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Didn’t someone ask this a few weeks ago?

john65pennington's avatar

Consider the end results of being captured: your children would now go into states custody, since their dad in being sent to prison for bank robbery.

There are other choices out there with people that want to help.

ilana's avatar

I would do it if I was in that sort of situation. If robbing the bank doesn’t harm anyone or cause hurt to other people, I don’t see why it would be such a bad thing. Robbing from a person instead of a financial institution would be a whole different matter though.

Aethelwine's avatar

You never run out of options. I’ve faced foreclosure and I have broken the law in the past. Guilt from breaking the law was much worse for me than losing my home.

iamthemob's avatar

If it were a commercial bank covered by the FDIC, I would have a problem doing it, but I would do it.

Whether I’m out of options and this is the last thing I can do can only be judged subjectively – I’ll never know if I’m really really right. If I’m wrong and another option pops up, then I will be fine. If I’m right, then my family might end up harmed, homeless – and who knows what else. Therefore, if I act as a “responsible citizen” and don’t do anything, then I’m placing my family at risk. If I do rob the bank, the harm is most generally to the taxpayers, but in a generalized sense such that it will not be felt by them. The benefit to my family will be significant – in the end, I feel that is me being a better person.

If there are individual unforseen impacts (e.g., the bank manager gets fired), I have money to deal with the problems associated with that (e.g., I can send an anonymous check as I’m not getting caught, I could get him or her another job, etc.).

And, considering this is an idealized situation, I also would not fear that this would set any precedent – if everyone else could also rob a bank and not get caught, I probably still would because I can’t depend on everyone also refraining because of the damaging impact, and I don’t want to be left holding the bag.

I also assume that this would be possible without causing any injury to people in the bank. If I have to rob the bank such that I have to go in armed, etc. – then I don’t think I would do it, as the risk of particularized and severe harm would be great.

@john65pennington – all of that has been removed from consideration in the question.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather set a proper example to my children about how to manage things when times get tough.

Coloma's avatar

Nope. You can run but you can’t hide, from yourself.

Besides, I am a firm believer in karma, it will come back to bite you in the ass sooner or later.

One must always look at the big picture and not just the moment.

Living with skeletons in your closet is not the recipe for a happy existence.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I would not rob a bank because stealing is wrong.

WasCy's avatar

No amount of rationalizing turns this into a non-harmful event, for me, for the bank or for my family or other ‘beneficiaries’.

I would rob a bank (or a supermarket, more likely, via shoplifting) if I were stupid enough to feel that that was “my only option” to keep my family from starving to death. Allowing my family to starve to death would be a “worse evil” to me than robbing someone else. But I would have to be that stupid, because even when I have faced unemployment and potential foreclosure I’ve always found “other options” (because I planned for them and obviated them years earlier, for example).

ilana's avatar

For someone who just answered a question about morals, my answer feels really out of place! Let me start again…I would never steal. Ever.

iamthemob's avatar

For those that wouldn’t do it – what is the harm that you think is being done? Is it insurmountable/can it not be counteracted?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob I wouldn’t do it because that money is someone else’s money and not mine. I also believe in karma and I wouldn’t want to have karma come back around and bite me and make things worse than they already were. Also, as I said in my answer, I’d rather teach my children better ways to handle tough times. I’d teach them about the resources that are available and how to obtain access to them. Even without getting in trouble, I’d have to live with myself and the example I set for my children.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – The parameters of the question, though, indicate that there are no other options – assuming that this is true as a hypothetical, how is it justified to allow your family to lose their home and go hungry when this option is available? Especially when none of the bank customers will be directly affected…

…I’m not arguing, I’m just wondering…

ilana's avatar

I guess another point of view is, what if no one else knew but you? If you didn’t tell your children and they went on to live a much happier and healthier life would that make it okay? Is living with your own guilt or unhappiness about doing the wrong thing a small price to pay for a much better life for your family?

marinelife's avatar

1. You’re not entitled to that money.

2. It’s against the law.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob To me, being out of unemployment funds and having a house facing foreclosure does not mean my options are all gone. Food banks/kitchens are available for food and as far as them running out, I hope that day never comes for those that need them. We know how to hunt for food, so that’s always an option for feeding our family as well. Having a house go to foreclosure doesn’t mean you can’t find other shelter, just that you have to move. It sucks, but as someone who had parents in that exact situation, we all survived. The house went to foreclosure and sure my parents credit got ruined for years, but they managed to pull things together and I’d do everything in my power to do the same thing.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – I agree that it’s difficult to really see the “no options” option – but it can happen. People do go homeless, can’t access helpful resources, etc.

The thing is, what if there were in fact no options…or options that were functionally no solution to the problem.

Cruiser's avatar

No, I would not do anything illegal like robbing a bank. My financial demise would be mostly my own fault. Until now I have never been so indebted to ever risk exposing my personal security to something like a foreclosure and loss of all savings. I have always made sure I had a fallback position or backup just in case. Insurance is a big part of that strategy and one bill I hate paying but know I need to have.

When I am healthy I could always work and bring in money somehow, someway. Disabled…that is what would take me down but again insurance is there for that reason.

So robbing a bank would never be a concern or necessity. Just wouldn’t do it no matter what.

Coloma's avatar

@ilana

A mentally, emotionally and spiritually mature person knows that any misdeed they commit harms themselves most of all.

Is a life of self hatred, shame, guilt, constant fear and anxiety about your dirty little secret being found out, really in the best interest of your family?

What people do not seem to really get, is it is IMPOSSIBLE ( unless you are a sociopath ) to not be effected by harmful acts you have perpetrated.

They always come squeezing out of the cracks in one way or another.

If you have to stay drunk 90% of your life to deal with your self loathing, well….

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob Yes people go homeless, but they can still get shelter. It’s a matter of knowing what’s available and how to access it. If I was put in this situation, it would be an ideal opportunity to teach my children exactly that. Also, to me, robbing a bank is not an option. All it would do is provide a temporary fix to a long term problem. I’d rather focus my energy to long term fixes that won’t make me hate myself afterwards. I’d rather struggle than steal from someone else. I’ve been homeless. It stinks. Luckily I had a car to sleep in to provide some shelter and truck/rest stops to give me a place to get cleaned up. Also, you know when your unemployment is running out, so before it does, you should be looking into what you are going to do next. Same thing with a foreclosure really. You know you aren’t paying your mortgage, so you know you’re going to lose your home. Instead of ignoring those facts, it’s best, in my opinion, to start figuring out exactly what your options are.

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

And what if, because you did not rob the bank, the shit does hit the fan – and a member of your family dies.

@Seaofclouds

True – but we’re assuming that the money would provide only a temporary fix. What if was enough to get you to a point where recovery was possible? What if it was a lot of money – millions – such that you could do real benefit with it?

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

Then you accept the consequences without resorting to criminal and immoral behavior.

What if by robbing the bank you steal someone elses medical expense account and they die?

Bottom line, we are all one, and what you do to another you do to yourself.

lloydbird's avatar

I’ve already got lots of paper, in fact, more than I need. Why would I go to so much trouble to acquire more?
In fact, I’ve really got to get round to throwing some out.

coffeenut's avatar

Would I ever….With extra dye packs on the side

flutherother's avatar

I don’t think there are any absolutes here and robbing a bank is not the ultimate evil. You might say that they have spent much of their time robbing us. I am going to take the moral high ground however and say that I would not do it as I would be certain to feel guilty about it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob And what about the people that are losing out of that money because of my selfishness? Taking more than needed would be even worse in my opinion. If someone was to do this because they were desperate and then went as far as to be greedy about it and take more than they could even need, that’s just even more wrong in my opinion.

ucme's avatar

Nah, i’d most probably suffocate on the pungent aroma brought forth by the tights over my face :¬(

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

General insurance as well as the FDIC protects individual bank investments (post the depression) so no individual is directly harmed from a bank robbery simply from the fact the money is gone. The cost from a single robbery, even a major one, is spread over millions of people.

How can that harm be comparable to the loss of a family member? (again, just fleshing this out).

@Seaofclouds

See above – the amount of money, also, seems moot if it’s just wrong.

To me, the harm is really to an insured corporation that is well-protected against this very type of incident. The money held by the bank is reloaned and reinvested often in portfolios that end up benefiting institutions with even greater wealth (e.g., the derivatives created from mortgage loans).

@flutherother

There’s a dilemma there though – again, if it resulted in the death of a loved one, isn’t the guilt associated with committing the crime a light burden in comparison?

aprilsimnel's avatar

That’s not my money.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob Ahh, but when the bank has to make the general insurance claim and a claim with the FDIC, I’m sure their consumers will see an increase in fees/rates which means I would be seeing that increase as well once I was back on my feet and using the banking system and turning the cost to all of the banks consumers. I disagree that the amount of money is moot. If you are only robbing the bank because you are desperate and you just want to get back on your feet, why be greedy and still millions? That to me shows you are doing it for more than just survival.

Coloma's avatar

@jamthemob
Because it is not about the insurence or how the loss is spread around.

It is about harming others because ones arrogance says they are somehow MORE entitled than anyone else.

Ultimately, stealing is an act of gross selfishness born of a sense of entitlement over others.

To rob a bank says ’ My needs and wants are more important than anyone elses.’

Sorry….no they are not.

Stealing a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to feed your children is not on the same continuum as stealing a large sum of money to surround yourself with luxuries.

We all die, some sooner than others, your life or that of your family member is no more or no less important than that of anyone else or their loved ones. Period.

glenjamin's avatar

If I knew I wouldn’t get caught I would never believe that (I would think it’s a trap), so I wouldn’t do it. That said, the money is insured so as long as nobody got hurt I would have no qualms about stealing from them, because to me it would be like stealing from the government.

SuperMouse's avatar

Catholic girl her, I could not deal with the guilt. Whether anyone else knew or not I would know and I could not live with myself.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – Not really. Banks are competitive with each other, and raising fees on consumers would likely send them to other banks. And any increase would not be enough to cause significant harm to any of its clients. FDIC insurance is up to $250,000 on an individual account – and is mandatory, so the fees are based on national rather than individual trends.

Then in terms of the amount of money – what if it was the amount needed to provide enough time to get back on ones feet, and that amount only?

@Coloma

We’re talking about desperation, not arrogance though. And this is to protect your family – selfish in one way, but about responsibility on the other. Robbing the bank is putting those close to you above those further from you – but again, there really is only a minor inconvenience to the institution when they are insured, no individual consumer is harmed to a degree that they notice, and the only one you’re saying your more important than is the banking institution – which really, doesn’t have rights.

And we’re not talking about luxuries by necessity – we’re talking about saving your house and feeding your family.

Why should the privilege of a bank to run without a hiccup be considered more important than feeding my family or keeping them from being homeless?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob I still wouldn’t do it. I’d just think a little better of the person that took what they need to survive instead of what they wanted to be greedy. Also, in the question, it doesn’t mention anything about seeking government assistance. Food stamps, welfare, health insurance. There are a lot of programs available. I find it hard to believe that someone who is in the process of going through a foreclosure and losing their unemployment wouldn’t be able to get some kind of help.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

Again, feeding your kids is one thing, but, what makes you think that saving your house is some sort of priority over others? Go rent an apartment like a gazillion others are having to do in this upside down economy.

You want to be there for your family?

Kinda hard when you’re in prison.

That’s a nice legacy to leave the wife and kids. lol

I’d hate to be in a concentration camp with someone with that attitude.
Get knifed over a bread crust. Nice.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – Well, in all fairness – the OP probably can’t enumerate all the things that had been done in a hypothetical without it becoming fundamentally unruly ;-).

My disagreement with the refusal to recognize choosing to rob the bank as a potentially moral or ethical choice, or just a generally nondescript good one, is that it feels like it comes from a place where we think that banks have rights over people.

@Coloma

You’re not going to prison – that’s already established in the question. They hypo is that you have no options – no renting an apartment, etc.

How did a concentration camp come into this!?!?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob It’s not that the bank has rights over me (or other people) it’s that I/we don’t have a right to the money that isn’t mine/ours. I wouldn’t steal from my neighbor and I wouldn’t steal from a bank. The fact that the bank has insurance to cover the loss doesn’t matter to me. Most likely my neighbor has insurance to cover their loss as well, but I still wouldn’t do it.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

Because…when people have a cut throat, ‘me first’ mentality, innocents get harmed.

There are no victimless crimes.

A far better example to your children would be a mommy/daddy that did not comprimise his/her integrity and showed their kids that they have the perserverance to keep on keepin’ on without turning to criminal means.

There are always options, always. They may not be what you’d prefer, but sharing a home with a couple of other families and eating beans and cornbread for a year are far preferable to becoming an outlaw.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds

Absolutely no question about that – but that’s really an issue that’s already answered by the fact that you’re committing a crime. If you had the right to it, you wouldn’t be committing a crime.

I feel like some of the issues might be illuminated by asking this: What if instead of robbing a bank in the commonly understood sense, you could steal one cent from a million people (assuming that $10,000 was what you needed to solve the problems).

@Coloma

You’re completely avoiding the question by saying there are always options. The question as framed requires that there are none. You will not be an outlaw because you will not get caught.

Same question as above to @Seaofclouds

josie's avatar

People who steal other peoples property are pure assholes. I choose not to be one of those. N.B. I know some people on this site think that I am an asshole, but that is a different kind of asshole.

wundayatta's avatar

@JilltheTooth Yes, I remember having this question like maybe a couple of weeks ago? Time seems longer on fluther. So much can happen in a day.

My answer is the same. I wouldn’t rob the bank. I don’t care whether someone is looking at me or not, I want to always do the thing my best self would do. I don’t, of course. I’ll sometimes litter just because a trash can isn’t near. I might keep some cookies for myself instead of sharing. But I would not rob a bank even if the money were sitting on a table with a sign that said, “take some.”

Well… maybe in that case…. no. I’d try to find out if they really meant it first.

Coloma's avatar

Well…I believe there are always options, so, by denying options I’d say that you’re talking of options you don’t WANT to explore rather than options that do not exist.

Okay, fine…my bottom line was stated above in my first post.

You do not involve yourself in unsavory conduct because you have a firm understanding, on a deep intrinsic level, that any harm you do to others harms you as well because we are one human family and we are all EQUALS in need.

The old saying of ’ if you stand for nothing you fall for everything’ comes to mind.

A man is as good as his word, and that is all.

If you can rationalize robbing a bank you can rationalize all manner of cheating, lying, betrayal and yes, even murder. It’s a slippery slope.

Why not just go on a shooting spree and kill everyone in your neighborhood so that there is less competition for food and work?

Once one starts rationalizing they just keeping moving their bottom line up another few feet. That’s a fact!

iamthemob's avatar

question of the day?

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

Dang it, @iamthemob! Spoiling the surprise. Hmph.

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

There are a couple of things here:

(1) Not robbing the bank and letting your family starve because of it, as is the premise of the question, is as much an act as robbing the bank. It is an act of omission. You are responsible for what happens to your family if, in the end, choosing not to rob the bank ends in the death of members of your family.

(2) The decision to commit a crime when there is a risk of death to people is not about rationalization – it’s a weighed decision. But even if it was, it is not the slippery slope you describe. It is situation-specific. The people depicted in “Alive” didn’t become cannibals because they had to eat their friends. Neither does a person who robs a bank out of desperation need become a bank robber.

(3) There is a vast difference between property crimes and violent crimes against people. Why not go on a shooting spree and kill everyone in your neighborhood? Why would you?

What about my penny question, though?

@augustlan

I spoiled nothing. My psychic powers must be both (1) recognized and (2) celebrated. Celebrate, dammit!

ucme's avatar

I like this one too. Ripple of muted applause :¬)

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

1. ) Through the act of robbing the bank to save your family from starving you are creating the potential for others to starve. Sooo, it is still an act of selfishness over mere survival.

2.) WHY shouldn’t it be your kids that starve over others?
If somebody is going to starve what makes you think you and yours should be exempt?

Because your family is more special than anyone elses?

There IS risk of death. Being shot by the police, causing an accident in your get away, frightening a customer into a heart attack or falling in their fear or panic.

3.) Stealing someones money is an act of violence.
It is mentally and emotionally violent to the victims and potentially physically harmful as well if they are left destitute because of your act. Causing another extreme stress and trauma IS violence!

Your penny question has more holes than a wool jacket in a closet full of moths. lol

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

(1) A single bank robbery will not create any real potential for others to starve. The money is insured. The bank will go on. Also, when looking at whether there is an actual harm or a potential harm, which should we try to avoid?

(2) I personally qualified my statements by saying that if there was risk of violence or harm in the act, I wouldn’t do it – so I think that the danger if it is done in an armed way, etc., is a good argument against it. But that’s a whole different harm.

(3) There is no victim because money is fungible. Again, it’s insured, etc. You’ll never know it’s gone.

You didn’t answer the question. There are no holes. Point them out if they are there.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob The money that the FDIC or insurance company replace has to come from somewhere. It’s not just going to poof out of thin air. Someone, somewhere is going to have to pay out what you stole.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds

- on one hand – it’s already been paid for, essentially, because the money will come from the FDIC reserve which is pre-funded to cover for this…

- on another, the cost is spread out, essentially, nationwide.

It’s why I asked this about the one cent from a million people – what about that situation?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob I wouldn’t steal a penny from a million people either. Just because it’s spread out nationwide doesn’t make it any better in my opinion.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seaofclouds
I beg to differ. The banks legally can invent up to 90% of their funds and then loan that invented money to their customers some of which is used to fund the FDIC. So basically, they pull 90% of their funds out of their ass. It’s all air based on debt-based consumerism which is, since the 1960s, overwhelmingly dependant on the payback of loans for durable goods with very little or no resale value. See Fractional Reserve Banking.

As a side note, since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act enacted in 1932 to prevent national catastrophies like that of 1928–32 (aka Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999), they can now risk customer savings into the stockmarket which makes these savings exempt from the protection of the FDIC. See Repeal of Glass-Steagall.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds

But here’s the problem – in the case where there is no option, or it really seems that way, the argument is then that you should risk the lives of your family rather than take something from people who’ll never know it’s gone.

I don’t see the justification.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob That’s fine that you don’t see the justification not to do it, but I don’t see the justification to do it. Maybe because I’ve been homeless before and I’ve had to use what resources I could to get food and cleaned up, but I have a hard time believing you (general you) could really get into a position where you have no other options. You may not know what options you have, but you have some, you just have to look for them.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – It’s a hypothetical – the nature of it is that you sort of have to take it at it’s imaginary world value and not real world value.

Imagine, then, that your child needs life-saving surgery, you don’t have insurance, and the surgery must be performed within the next week. You need the money for the surgery.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob If my son went to the hospital and they had to perform a surgery to save his life, they would have to do it and couldn’t refuse. All I would have to do is take him in to the ER. They could not discharge him without attempting to save his live. ERs are not allowed to turn patients away for inability to pay in life and death situations. So I wouldn’t go rob a bank for that either, I’d just take him to the ER. I get that it’s a hypothetical, but my point still remains that I would not rob a bank to get through a tough time. You’re not going to change my mind on that by making me worry about my child dying.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seaofclouds
I beg to differ again. As a patient advocate, I saw daily cancer patients that were refused life-saving surgeries because they couldn’t afford them. My job was to go begging to pharmaceutical companies and non-profits to get the funds. I was sometimes successful.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus As a nurse that has worked in the ER, I know ERs cannot turn away patients due to inability to pay for a fact. It’s against the law. It would be different if it’s a patient in another setting, but in the ER, they must do everything they can to save the person’s life.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seaofclouds – I’m not trying to change your mind – the child’s death was always a potential part of the hypothetical. I was just trying to eliminate elements that seemed to stop you from accepting the boundaries of the hypothetical.

If you don’t accept the rules of the hypothetical, that’s one thing. But if it’s essentially that you would not rob a bank in any situation, I wonder why the rule is so rigid.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iamthemob You are correct in that I would not rob a bank in any situation. I’ve explained why numerous times above.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seaofclouds
I too worked the ER, and you are quite right. But once they’re DC’d, tey are quite often referred to a practitioner who employs people like me with varying success. It’s a crapshoot.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

The biggest hole is in your head. hahaha

Hey, fine, I’m just waxing philosophical, go for it! ;-)

Regardless of outcome, I feel it is a morally and spiritually bereft action.

In condoning one act we condone many acts.

Do you want to be the poster child for setting that kind of wheel in motion?

perspicacious's avatar

I have no desire to take what is not mine.

ETpro's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Thanks a lot for asking me specifically. :-)

I would have rather not disclosed this, but since you ask, a bank, yes. In that situation and if it were possible to know I would not get caught, I would be right up there with Willie Sutton.

Now, if it came to my neighbor, even a rich one, this I could not do. But the banking industry has gotten so big and powerful that they are able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying and in essence bribing their way into the chambers of government. One by one, they have rewritten the rule book of society so they win no matter how the dice are rolled. Because they play dirty against the little guy, this little guy would suffer no pangs of concupiscence playing on a level playing field with them.

WasCy's avatar

It seems to me that those who have (or pretend to have) “no problem” stealing from a bank view it as okay because:
– the bank somehow stole from us in the first place
– “the bank” isn’t “real people”
– the bank is insured by “government agencies” who also aren’t “real people”
– anyway, the loss to the bank and to the insurance programs are tiny, compared to the thief’s immediate and critical need.

So it seems to be “okay” for some as long as they can de-legitimize the bank or its owners / operators or make the loss palatable by virtue of its relative insignificance to the bank or the insurer.

It’s still wrong, and it’s still a crime. The bank hasn’t stolen from me. It’s an organization composed of real people with their own families, needs and wants. It’s insured (at whatever individual cost) by real people, too. The proportion of loss to the bank vs. my “loss” if I don’t steal hardly matters.

One might be able to plead for mercy / forgiveness based on one’s exigent circumstances, but it doesn’t negate that a wrong act is a wrong act. I said earlier in the thread that I would probably commit one crime to avoid a worse one, namely, letting my family die of starvation. But I’m not certain that I would, any more. Yes, I certainly want to protect my family, but not, I think, in this way. If I am such a failure that this type of theft (no matter how petty it seems to some) is the way to “succeed” in the world, then I can’t rationalize that it’s a lesser crime to steal to enable my life – or my family.

Maybe if I were faced with something like it in real life I’d make another choice, but for now I can’t see making this one.

And “whether or not I could get away with it” hardly enters the equation.

SABOTEUR's avatar

As broke as I am, I’m inclined to say “yes”, but somehow or other I know that doing so would somehow come back to bite me in the ass so, no.

Don’t tempt me again.

shego's avatar

I’m going to say yes I would steal from the bank. Steal from the rich and give to the poor, isn’t that what Robin Hood did? What’s wrong with that? Besides most of you saying it’s morally wrong I know that, but its wrong for people to suffer too.
But the difference is, I wouldn’t be using the money for just myself, and my “hypothetical family.” There are so many people out in the world who can’t get the help they need. I see it everyday at the shelter.
It truly bothers me. I can’t stand seeing kids asking their parents when they are going to have a place that they can call home. It’s really disturbing. If I could get my hands on funds like that, does it really matter what I did was wrong, when helping others? I personally would buy buildings for shelter, and get more local inner city food co-ops started, so there is more food available to people.
My family would know that there is more to life than just worrying about oneself.

Coloma's avatar

@shego

Whats wrong with the Robin Hood mentality is that it says that the rich don’t deserve to be rich!

Who says?

I am not rich by a long shot, but I certainly don’t want anyone arbitrarily deciding that they have a right to my bank account just because I have more money than they do.

Bullshit!

‘Suffering’ is a natural part of the human condition and believing you are above having to suffer is part of a sense of entitlement that somehow you should not be subject to the plights of humanity.

No one escapes some measure of pain and suffering in this life.

I agree there are many that need help, but stealing is not the answer and one needs to put themselves in others shoes before they make determinations.

I’m pretty sure if everyone that claims robbing from the rich is okay would change their tune in a heartbeat if they became wealthy.

Ron_C's avatar

There is no way that I would rob a bank. I hate the idea of stealing other people’s things and wouldn’t want to do it to someone else. The only way that I could see robbing a bank was if it was doing terrible things like taking bailout money and not making loans for which the money was intended then giving a bonus to its CEO. Then the robbery would be a political statement and I would give it away, anonymously to deserving small businesses.

There is virtually no chance that I would do it though, I have never stole anything in my entire life and I am too old to start a life of crime, no matter how deserving the victims.

iamthemob's avatar

@WasCy

You raise some really good points. I’ll re-emphasize that, in my initial post, I stated that I would still have a problem doing it, but given the situation, I probably would.

Committing the act is not an affirmation that it’s a good thing to do – rather, it’s a choice of the lesser of two evils – requiring that one weigh the comparative harms of each.

I have as much issue with anyone saying “Of course I would!” without understanding why as I do with one saying “Not in any circumstances!” which disallows any consideration of the various impacts of that.

@Coloma

The problem is you’re attributing reasoning that is not clearly the reasoning of those stating they would do it to those people – reasoning that seems to reflect more judgment that comes from your sense of what is right or wrong (which is, for me, the problem with a rigid moral code).

First, the decision is not arbitrary here. The decision is based on multiple considerations. When you say “No, it’s just not right in any circumstances” that is an arbitrary decision as it disallows any circumstances where it may be the best choice. Second, the statement is not one claiming that the person committing the crime saying that one shouldn’t be required to, passively, accept that they are meant to suffer tremendously when they have an opportunity to alleviate some of their desperation (not eliminate their suffering) by doing something that, based on the hypo, transfers that suffering to a body of people so great that they might not notice the suffering at all – and at most, would amount to a mere annoyance. Third, the only way we can actually determine the root causes of suffering is to consider the position of another from that perspective. That’s the basis of empathy – for instance, someone who kills for fun versus someone who killed because they found themselves in a desperate situation should be treated differently. Neither should be relieved of culpability for what they’ve done, but the second has the chance to still contribute. This was the basis of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa post-apartheid – one of the most profound experiments in human rights justice we’ve seen. Fourth, the mentality is not “these people don’t deserve to be rich” (as it’s never suggested that the rich won’t stop being rich, because they still have tons of money) but rather “these poor people don’t deserve to go hungry and accept that while these others buy a yacht, knowing that there are people starving!” It’s not a claim that someone doesn’t deserve what they’ve earned – simply that although it doesn’t seem reprehensible to keep what you earn but clearly don’t need rather than give it to many to ensure that they can meet their basic need, but it’s not morally justifiable.

I’ll throw in something based on your last point – I was born wealthy, worked through college and after college as if I was independently poor, and then became independently wealthy as well as with family wealth. I, however, have not changed my tune.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

Okay, well then….perhaps you should withdraw all your savings and stand on the street corner tossing $100 bills at passerby. haha

I simply do not beleive that forcibly taking anything from anyone is the right thing to do.

I am not ashamed of having a moral code, it has served me well and I like the woman in the mirror.

I still disagree.

If I can afford a Yacht there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of my labor and there is no shame in that.

To claim that a wealthier person is somehow lacking empathy for enjoying anything above their base needs is rediculous! That’s dangerously close to a communist mindset.

I’m of a very altruistic nature but I certainly don’t feel guilty because I am living a comfortable life.

Sooo, are you willing to dress in sack cloth and give away your savings to walk your talk? lol

My philosophy is we all do what we can do as we can do it, no guilt, no obligation, nobody ‘owes’ anybody anything.

This argument parallels those that feel we still ‘owe’ restitution to blacks and other minorities for hundreds of years of past enslavement or exploitation.

I too have been on both sides of the wealth fence and I didn’t expect special treatment when times were hard, nor do I expect to be told I am somehow inhumane if I enjoy a luxury item.

Reverse discrimination is just as bad as oppressive poverty.

Pffft!

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

Having a moral code is a desirable characteristic. It is not something to be ashamed of. I, however, see problems where a moral code is rigid in that it consists of absolute prohibitions or mandates in behavior.

For instance: killing is wrong, and therefore you cannot kill. Of course this means no self-defense.

You really, really, really need to listen to what I’m saying instead of what you want to hear, and accusing me of having a “hole in my head” (ps – thanks for that, but you still avoided pointing out any faults with my question as well as avoided answering the question, again). I never said that one shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of their labor – even when it is something extravagant. I never said one should feel guilty for not being 100% altruistic with their excess income. What I said was that it is not morally justifiable to say “I deserve to buy this designer whatever because I want it, when someone is dying because they can’t afford to buy food. I deserve to buy this because I am more wealthy, and they deserve to die because they are not.” It is not reprehensible, as I already stated. It is morally equivalent, I believe – but it’s important to realize what you’re doing. If you or I or anyone feels guilty because of that, that will influence their action as they feel appropriate.

Therefore, there is no obligation to act in any way. However, if someone who is desperate because of great need commits an act that is morally wrong (as I agree that stealing is), that wrong needs to be balanced against the need and the harm caused by it. This doesn’t privilege them to do it, nor does it forgive the act, but it makes it comprehensible and therefore the reaction to it should be mitigated by those considerations.

That’s the very basis of the criminal justice system. If criminal acts were treated the same regardless of the criminal intent (mens rea), we would not have criminal degrees (first degree murder versus manslaughter, for instance), we would not have defenses (self defense, insanity), and we would not have excuses (intoxication for specific intent crimes).

Your philosophy is not what you describe, which is the problem with rigid moral codes – they create both obligations and prohibitions that are absolute and therefore contradictory when practically applied. If you don’t owe anything, have not guilt, no obligation, etc., that requires that no one need respect anyone as having any rights – I should not feel guilty for taking something from you that is “yours” because I don’t owe anything to you. Anything you give me is great – but don’t get upset if I don’t give a shit about you because you gave it to me, and if you need something in the future, you don’t get to be upset if I laugh in your face. You think I owe you because you were dumb enough to give me something before? ;-)

Further, if you don’t believe in forcible taking, I hope that you aren’t paying your taxes. Any of them. Even though it’s Constitutionally legal.

You keep flipping the argument to say that the wealthy should feel obligated to give or not feel they should be compensated when something is stolen from them. Or that they should feel guilty about spending excess money. No, that’s not nor has it been the issue. It’s simply that the right to do as they please should not be expected to be sacrosanct in that it’s never comprehensible to violate it even when (1) the benefit to the person doing so is so profound as to save lives, and (2) the harm to that person or persons who has their right violated is so little as it is not felt.

You only consider one side of the issue.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I’ve been reading through this (including the old thread) and I find that I’m not nearly so absolute on what my response would be as I was the last time. Maybe because our eloquent @iamthemob wasn’t so involved there. I’ve been thinking about this all night and I’m still confused and sleep deprived and I find it difficult to give an honest real-life probability answer based on a hypothetical, but I’ll try. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in my life in that I’ve never experienced financial hardship, and for that I am truly grateful. I have no doubt that I could have taken care of myself and my child had I not been so blessed, but the scenario as described could happen to anyone. Weighing the pros and cons, karmic as well as earthly, I would probably opt to rob the damned bank, hate myself for doing it, and somehow count on the human ability to rationalize distasteful action because of necessity and desperation to lessen the burden of my conscience over time.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

I DO see your point, and I DO agree that there are degrees of behaviors, that may be mitigated dependent on the circumstances, but, I still believe that there are very FEW mitigating circumstances to justify stealing.

Good debate, I’ll leave off with saying that the best part of waking up has been @iamthemob in my cup. lol

P.S. The ‘hole in the head’ crack was meant humorously. Note the ‘lol’.

Alrighty…..she’s outta here, the suns shining and one must make hay, unless of course, I decide to steal my neighbors hay stack. haha

iamthemob's avatar

@JilltheTooth

I completely agree that it may be impossible to accurately assess how you’d act in a situation completely alien and hypothetical. Indeed, when you say that you are confused and don’t know but don’t think you’d be able to do it, that kind of equivocation/waffling is, in my mind, the right response. Of course, that’s because it’s like mine – I probably would, but I don’t know – my conscience might get the better of me.

We never really know until we are in the thick of it. When I had to evacuate because of Hurricane Katrina, I was in a situation where everything I owned was in the two bags that I was carrying. I always liked to think that devastating material loss wouldn’t affect me if I still had people I loved around me and my life – you know, the important stuff – but was pretty sure that I would be miserable and depressed because of it. I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t care, that my perspective was balanced enough to let go of the stuff as just stuff. But you just never know.

@Coloma

Awesome – saying that there are very few mitigating circumstances is something that we totally agree on. I was getting worried that you was all about the “No way, no how.” ;-)

P.S. – the haystack is gone. I stole it to feed my poverty-stricken farm animal family.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@iamthemob ; Actually I said I probably would opt to do it, not a sentiment I’m proud of, but I’m pretty sure I would do anything to save my kid. I agree that speaking in absolutes is counterproductive when one takes the basic human factor into account.

wundayatta's avatar

I wonder if people would feel differently if it was a briefcase full of 100 dollar bills they found on a park bench.

iamthemob's avatar

@JilltheTooth – my eloquence is limited, apparently, to only the writing part and not reading. My bad. ;-)

@wundayatta – I was going to ask the same thing – found money is someone else’s more than likely as much as stolen. If you have no problem using it, it seems acceptable only because it’s more a passive act or an act of omission again.

Of course, what they should do is hold the funds or turn them over and refuse to use them until absolutely every option of search for the true owner had been exhausted. But, how do you really know when that is? ;-)

JilltheTooth's avatar

@iamthemob : It’s a litigator thing, to convince, without debate. I get it. :-P

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemob You give it to the police and they hold it for a period of time—a month or three—and if no one collects it, it’s yours.

I would think that people would have more trouble with found money, because it is almost certainly someone’s. The bank seems so impersonal, so no one empathizes with it. But maybe I’ve read too many stories where people who are very poor and need the money badly—turn it in, and then become the moral heroes of the story. Usually they are rewarded in some way for this moral act.

Ron_C's avatar

@wundayatta I found a wallet with $60 when I was a kid. I took it to the store that was right by where I found the wallet and got a receipt with my name. The store found the owner and returned it and he gave me $5. Considering that my allowance was 25 cents a week (I was only 10) that was a real windfall and there was no guilt involved. I went to Catholic school; though they weren’t much in teaching religion they did a great job on guilt. I would do anything to avoid guilt.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta – Each state has different procedures for that – some actually require years depending on value.

But that’s a legal requirement and not a moral one.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

As I’ve answere previously, it depends on whose money the bank is housing – if it’s corporations that I’m stealing from, I’d do it.

iamthemob's avatar

I’m going to note something really quickly – the bank that I do business with was the local target of repeated bank robberies – it was singled out so much that it was newsworthy.

I never, at any point, suffered any loss because of it.

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemobthat’s a legal requirement and not a moral one

Excuse me? I’m not sure what you’re getting at. You say that as if this somehow changes the kinds of choices people are making.

We always have a choice of following the law or not. It’s no different from following our sense of morality. Law is just our communal consensus about how our sense of morality should be put into practice. Most people believe that a moral person doesn’t steal. Obviously a lot of people don’t agree with that because they would steal if they felt their level of need was high enough and that they would get away with it.

I’m surprised by that in a way, not because I do not condone that point of view, but because it seems somewhat hypocritical. But then, there are an awful lot laws and notions of conventional morality that people say they believe in public, but don’t act like they believe it in private.

I just wish people would come out with their peccadilloes so we could see that some of these moral notions really aren’t working for many of us.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta

I emphasize it only because people often assume that things are illegal because they’re immoral. Often that’s the case – but not always, and not often to the extent that they’re criminal.

So we’re on the same page – which is why I wanted to point it out. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemob Yes, it is true that there is (I would say) often a big gap between law and what most people think is moral. There is always the question about whether you would disobey an immoral law.

MissAnthrope's avatar

If the situation was really ‘no other options’, I think that I would seriously consider it, particularly if there was no risk of getting caught. I mean, if I couldn’t feed my kids otherwise, is there really a choice there?

I am generally a very honest, moral, and conscientious person. As an example, in the past two weeks, I found a wallet and on a separate occasion, I also found a credit card lying in the street. I could have easily stolen money or tried to use the card, but I knew the right thing to do was to find the owner of the wallet and to call the credit card company to inform them.

I admit that I’ve done some bad things in the past, things which I am too ashamed to admit (and, frankly, it would be stupid to admit to on the internet), but I have learned from these actions and am a better person now. While I still feel guilt and shame for them, over the years, I have accepted my actions and am not crippled by these feelings.

Robbing a bank is not the same guilt level to me as, say, murdering someone (which, I think I could never live with myself or the crippling guilt afterwards). Robbing a bank, I think I could eventually get over it and/or justify my actions, particularly if it was done out of sheer desperation.

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