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Let’s try and see if that HDTV will fit in my trunk.
September 2, 2013 6:46 PM   Subscribe

The truth is the human race has never been better off. We live in an age of plenty. The problem is one of distribution: Instead of being used for the benefit of all, that plenty is exploited for the benefit of a select, privileged few, who profit from polluting and in some cases sabotaging the commons. If a rich person has something you need, you should take it. And if a big corporation has something you want, you should steal it. Instead of paying retail prices when you go to a chain store, just don’t pay. After all, you earned it.

Change comes about when those in power feel scared: when they feel that conceding to the public interest is the only way to maintain their status. Charity may build a few hospital wings, but fear builds a universal health care system. If you want to improve your life, start thinking outside the ballot box and the system the rich created and the values it teaches. Start thinking about getting what is yours.

It’s easy to steal back your money from the rich. You probably do it all the time. Ever buy a movie on iTunes instead of downloading it for free on The Pirate Bay? Yeah, keep not doing that. Ashton Kutcher will be just fine, unfortunately. Send some money to a janitor at Universal Studios if you really feel bad about it.

There is $118 trillion of wealth in the United States alone, or about $375,000 per American. For every homeless person in the country, there are 28 empty homes waiting for them right now. Laws and culture deny them a roof over their head, not a dearth of roofs. It is our legal system that funnels a disproportionate amount of wealth to a small handful of people, not the benevolent hand of a just and caring god.

Even by the standard of 20th century capitalism, things are pretty not okay. If income had kept pace with growth in the economy since 1970, the median household would be making around $92,000. The actual number is $50,000 and falling. A record 46 million Americans are living below the U.S. government’s official poverty line. Debt is one of few things the country produces anymore: Go to college and you’re liable to make tens of thousands of debt dollars, graduating into a job market where getting an unpaid internship is something to gloat about on Facebook. Working harder isn’t an option. We’re being worked hard enough and it isn’t enough to pay the bills.
posted by whyareyouatriangle (106 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Something tells me Charles Davis will feel very differently about this when it's his shit that starts being electively redistributed.
posted by yoink at 6:51 PM on September 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


This reminds me of that Henry Rollins' spoken word piece "Blueprints for the Destruction of the Earth."
"drugs, sex, and office supplies.... should never be paid for."
posted by entropicamericana at 6:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this Protocols of the Elders of Occupy or some shit?
posted by Artw at 6:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


Pretty bitter about something, isn't he?

I love that it's OK to steal most everything, except HIS new CD player...
posted by HuronBob at 6:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just remember that the ultra control the police and jails.

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time....
posted by CrowGoat at 6:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think the piece is earnest about exhorting readers to commit property crime, you guys. It's a bit too otherwise well-reasoned.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:02 PM on September 2, 2013 [22 favorites]


Well, this essay seemed pretty interesting but then I read a few glib one-liners posted up-thread and now I just don't know what to think; is the status quo terrific or not?? hope me
posted by threeants at 7:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [49 favorites]


I don't think the piece is earnest about exhorting readers to commit property crime, you guys. It's a bit too otherwise well-reasoned.

I think you're right. It's some kind of weird satire. From the writer's other article on the site:

We liberals also ought to quit patronizing the innocent victims of our wars by portraying them as innocent victims of our wars. As I learned on a recent trip to Pakistan, often times these “victims” — or rather, their survivors — will tell you they don’t feel victimized at all: they feel empowered. Indeed, many say they’re just happy to be taking part as some of the first proud people of color to be warred upon by a proud American emperor of color.
posted by shivohum at 7:07 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


That guy in high school who stole my portable CD player just after I got the thing for my birthday—that guy was wrong.

But what if that guy was more poor than you, is the question.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:11 PM on September 2, 2013


I went looking for a cite for the homeless vs unoccupied real estate claim, but found that in 2011 only a 5:1 ratio was claimed. Sobering either way.
posted by jepler at 7:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If your aim is to strike back at the system, stealing HDTVs is piffle. You want organized crime--I'm talking Silk Road, those seedy street vendors hawking pirate DVDs. If those guys start stocking HDTVs I'll get them there instead.

I have a collection.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


shivohum: "It's some kind of weird satire."

It does have a tongue in cheek tone to it.

HuronBob: "I love that it's OK to steal most everything, except HIS new CD player..."

He does make a distinction between stealing from a person and stealing from a corporate.

Does that makes sense? Is stealing from a corporate justified?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


OH, my....is this a modified diatribue from a piece Lenin wrote over a century ago? I once had friends who claimed that ths was the philosophy by which we all should abide until I borrowed clothing from their closet...seems it was not universally to be applied.
posted by OhSusannah at 7:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what happens when the works-too-hard-too Walmart cashier gets fired for failing to live up to corporate loss-prevention guidelines? Or does it not matter because shoplifting is always a victimless crime?

Or is this whole article a ridiculous satire in which case what the hell is the author really trying to say?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


He does make a distinction between stealing from a person and stealing from a corporate.

A "corporate" has never filed a police report....

"many say they’re just happy to be taking part as some of the first proud people of color to be warred upon by a proud American emperor of color".

I'm having a hard time imagining anyone saying that...

It's some kind of weird satire

OK... I'm going to accept this...
posted by HuronBob at 7:20 PM on September 2, 2013


Don't steal an HDTV, steal a company that makes them in a hostile merger wait just a second here
posted by angerbot at 7:21 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do people in this thread really think the main thing preventing others from looting their shit is that the public just hasn't been exposed to enough anarchist theory yet? Yo, nobody wants your fucking CD player.
posted by threeants at 7:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Don't steal an HDTV, steal a company that makes them in a hostile merger wait just a second here

Now THIS I understand. It's not really Capitalism unless you're using imaginary resources to make a real profit.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else:
music
movies
microcode (software)
high-speed pizza delivery

--Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
The first three are available for any moderately savvy person anywhere on the planet. The Pakistani brickmaker is more than happy to provide the fourth.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow, this staggering silliness is actually the main featured article on the TNI's front page atm ( from the About page: "The New Inquiry is a space for discussion that aspires to enrich cultural and public life by putting all available resources—both digital and material—toward the promotion and exploration of ideas."). The author also appears to aspire to be a serious journalist ; also seems to have some kind of connection with Code Pink on further googling
posted by Bwithh at 7:30 PM on September 2, 2013


Yo, nobody wants your fucking CD player.

Well, this was the local police report last week: August 28, 2013

On Sunday, August 25, 2013, members of the Pinckney Police Department conducted a search warrant at an apartment on W. Hamburg St in the Village of Pinckney. The purpose of the warrant was to locate a suspect wanted for multiple Larcenies from Auto’s (LFA’s) in the Village and the surrounding area, as well as recover stolen property / evidence. The search was conducted by the PPD and members of the Hamburg Twp PD. The search resulted in the recovery of stolen items, and the arrest of an 18-year old white male subject.

Most of these items were GPS units, radios, and, CD players from vehicles...

Maybe it's just my neighborhood... :-\
posted by HuronBob at 7:31 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everybody wants the revolution in which they come out on top. Problem is, in most revolutions, you don't come up on top.
posted by chasing at 7:31 PM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm sure he would be upset if you took his stuff to give to other people. But that's because, statistically-speaking, if you took and redistributed his stuff, you'd be ignoring all the many trillions of dollars held by people richer than him.

If you made a big wheel, gave it one slot for every dollar in the country, gave it a spin, then gave the dollar indicated to the poorest person, statistically it'd be more likely you'd win the lottery before the needle landed on you, unless you're very rich indeed.

However, outright theft is not the answer, because the people most vulnerable to it are not the rich who can afford security, but people like us. Fortunately we have an avenue available to us: the ballot box. We just need to stop voting against our interests.
posted by JHarris at 7:35 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ha! This is fun and everything and I really like it, but the problem with stealing from the people with all the power is that they have all the power, and they wield that power over the police, judges and juries. So while, in theory, doing a smash-and-grab for a couple of Maseratis is a perfectly legitimate and justifiable exercise, the disproportionate amount of shit that will be rained down on you for doing so turns it into a bad idea.

Hence RIAA lawsuits for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that class of thing.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems like an awful lot of trouble just to try to stop feeling guilty that he finally worked up the gumption to install µTorrent for the first time.
posted by straight at 7:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


"We just need to stop voting against our interests."

I favorited that...but... My best efforts in that direction seem to often fail miserably!
posted by HuronBob at 7:37 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stealing from your dear old grandmother’s purse is wrong (unless she’s mean).

Actually, it's still wrong if she's mean.
posted by Bwithh at 7:37 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Consider working less. Not working fewer hours (you get paid for those), but expending less effort

Not possible my friend, not possible.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:38 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I sympathize with the notion that the ability for a select few humans to hold wealth beyond imagining is worrisome and excessive. However, the trouble is that property really and truly does mean something.

from article: "Having money means defining right and wrong. Under capitalism, property is defined by those with the most dollars. Historically you could go to prison for 'stealing' a slave or letting them liberate themselves. Human beings were property until a shift in values and a bloody civil war decided they weren’t. Isn’t it possible that what is considered private property today will be rendered illegitimate by future generations? And why wait?"

I don't say that property rights are utterly sacrosanct, and I don't claim that they're the most important thing about a society. But free nations really must provide this right to citizens: if you acquired something fairly, you ought to be able to trust on keeping it and utilizing it. The ridiculous levels of wealth in the top income brackets don't change this. I know that, in our era of conservative dudgeon about the importance of property rights, it can be easy to forget that they really are important; but anyone who's ever (for example) had their last bit of money stolen, or had their possessions taken from them violently on the street, knows this fact: theft really does constitute a violation of someone else's ability to be safe and happy and live a full life.

In fact, I would actually say that one of the chief problems in society today is the way we've blurred the line here. We've constructed a world in which most people hold their property close because it's likely to dissipate at the hands of the machine, and in which a select few are allowed the privilege of an abstracted form of property that is so separated from tangible existence that it's sometimes hard to know if it really should be called property anymore.

On some level, it's actually important that we respect the things people have and hold, because those things are what they're counting on to ensure their future happiness.

Also, even if that weren't true, this article would be silly. Sure, steal that staple (?) from Bed Bath & Beyond. They won't give a shit. They'll dock their workers.

Ultimately, this advice will have us looting each other in the streets while the corporations laugh. At best, this strategy might bring about the collapse of what we call civilization, and everyone will engage in looting. I hope I don't have to explain why that would actually be a bad thing.
posted by koeselitz at 7:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think Metafilter will be okay koeselitz, most of us don't even have TVs.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe this article is an art project stunt by the author to see how many New Inquiry readers he can get fired or sent to prison through his stunning ideas.
posted by Bwithh at 7:42 PM on September 2, 2013


"most of us don't even have TVs."

or won't admit to it...
posted by HuronBob at 7:45 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well she'd hardly be your dear old grandmother if she were mean, she'd be your mean old grandmother.
posted by angerbot at 7:46 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good article, except for: "a handful of wealthy people who rely on the labor and genius of others to make themselves wealthier." I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.
posted by Halogenhat at 7:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dear old meanie grandmama. Meanest grammy. Gramma Meanpants. Grammeanie. Grammemama.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charity may build a few hospital wings, but fear builds a universal health care system. If you want to improve your life, start thinking outside the ballot box and the system the rich created and the values it teaches. Start thinking about getting what is yours.

Universal healthcare systems in capitalist democracies generally arrived through the ballot box, not through popular looting outbreaks. Or maybe he's against universal healthcare ( because it props up the capitalist system?) ? His argument logic gives me headaches , it's like grading bad but enthusiastic undergrad essays
posted by Bwithh at 7:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well she'd hardly be your dear old grandmother if she were mean, she'd be your mean old grandmother.
posted by angerbot at 7:46 PM on September 2 [1 favorite +] [!]



Don't steal from that grandma's purse too
posted by Bwithh at 7:54 PM on September 2, 2013


I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.

This would be a vast, wild deviation from what I've observed. Most wealthy people that I've met are just... normal.
posted by underflow at 7:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Is it too much to ask that MeFites, if you're not going to read the article, to understand that the "stealing from corporations" is an extended conceit meant to draw attention to what we consider suitable for collective ownership and what we do not? For example we agree, soberly, as a society that stealing a television is wrong, but that when a few people, by virtue of some unearned access to wealth and power control our public patrimony and distribute its resources in a criminally unequal way, we consider it a mark of innovation and craft?
posted by Catchfire at 7:58 PM on September 2, 2013 [62 favorites]


Ugh. Politics may not be pretty, but antipolitics is grotesque.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:58 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is $118 trillion of wealth in the United States alone, or about $375,000 per American.

If income had kept pace with growth in the economy since 1970, the median household would be making around $92,000. The actual number is $50,000 and falling.

Irrespective of whatever else this piece says, I did not know those two stats and they are breathtaking. Take what you need and leave the rest.
posted by dry white toast at 8:10 PM on September 2, 2013 [28 favorites]


You can always lift office supplies at the same time you try to organize fellow office workers.

so maybe Charles Davis is some kind of agent provocateur?
Maybe The New Inquiry is secretly funded and controlled as disinformation operation by the Kochtopus!!!
posted by Bwithh at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2013


if you're not going to read the article,

Please don't assume this....
posted by HuronBob at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually think a lot of people already have exactly that attitude. Poor neighborhoods have a ton of petty theft, theft of stuff that really makes almost no sense to steal. I've never stolen anything but the overall vibe I get from living in those neighborhoods is, hey, they have more stuff than I do and I won't suffer any real consequences for taking it, so why not take it?

The irony of course is that there's so much petty crime that many of our neighborhood stores have gone under and become vacant buildings. There is a Target, but it has off-duty cops permanently stationed at the doors. Meanwhile, life goes on for the rich people in the rich neighborhoods exactly like it always did.
posted by miyabo at 8:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But free nations really must provide this right to citizens: if you acquired something fairly...

Yeah, lets sort that out first.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:23 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"But free nations really must provide this right to citizens: if you acquired something fairly, you ought to be able to trust on keeping it and utilizing it."

I'd rather see it the other way 'round. If you acquired something unfairly (*not* just illegally), you ought to be able to trust that it will be taken from you, quickly and forcefully, and given to someone with a better claim to it.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:52 PM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Define "acquiring something fairly" in a way that all the income brackets can agree to. Let's sort that out first.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


STEAL THIS BOOK.

(we already tried this, but our leaders ran for congress or sold T-shirts until they could afford to buy ranches and put up fences posted with KEEP OUT signs.)

Anyhow, kum-ba-ya my brother. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
posted by mule98J at 8:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If wages had kept pace with growth we'd be living in a different, and I would argue, better place. A difference of 42k is an enormous number and it seems somewhat obvious that most have these middle-class losses have become too .1% gains, at least at the national level. How could this happen, and what would be legitimate and feasible methods to bring back middle class income gains?
posted by chaz at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Irrespective of whatever else this piece says, I did not know those two stats and they are breathtaking. Take what you need and leave the rest.
I think the lazily incendiary framing is just there to sneak the statistics in front of more eyeballs. It's a really nice collection of those "Why haven't I heard this?" stats, I was surprised at the bit about the average CEO making 354 times the average worker, up from 42:1 under Reagan. Which, y'know, this article wouldn't have made the front page without its hook, so that's a clue as to why these statistics aren't common knowledge. Sometimes I wonder if the ideal way to disseminate crucial statistics right now is done up in an eye-catching typeface over a heavily-filtered Instagram photo tossed into the Tumblrsphere and making its way to a Facebook wall in your extended family in about 6 months or so. That and jokey listicles. Which I don't say to condescend about "kids these days" or whatever, it's bite-sized compelling information that lends itself to any easily-digestible format so stuff like that should absolutely be embraced. So I'm not really too upset about the framing of the article, it's how these things get seen and there's stuff worth seeing in this one.
"But free nations really must provide this right to citizens: if you acquired something fairly, you ought to be able to trust on keeping it and utilizing it."

I'd rather see it the other way 'round. If you acquired something unfairly (*not* just illegally), you ought to be able to trust that it will be taken from you, quickly and forcefully and given to someone with a better claim to it.
Whatever it is, the ability to acquire without limit and hoard like a goddamn dragon is what I'm really not cool with. Even if you could get every single person on Earth to agree it was acquired fairly. If the overwrought attention-grabby bits of the article have one real piece of truth in them it's that people have responded to that kind of thing by smashing open the hoard since the days the loot was labeled in cuneiform.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


(On the article: petty theft disproportionally hurts people who aren't economically or politically powerful enough to matter to decision makers. It turns communities against each other in a culture of paranoia and intrusive self-policing. It's like poor serfs in the dark ages throwing dead cats at their tormented neighbors, locked up in stocks in the town square for stealing a few eggs from the landlord's personal stash. But I think this is satire folks.)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few people have read this differently to me. It seems to me that he is advising theft only from the unfairly ultra-rich, which I am 100% for. But he's not advocating you steal from people who are only richer than you, and he's certainly not advocating you steal from people on the same level as you. He's actually not really advocating theft at all, it's really just a metaphor. So saying "Yeah well what happens when I take his new trainers because I don't have any? Then the shoe would really be on the other foot ahurr hurr durr" is really ultra-spastic, he's not saying you take something just because somebody else has it and you don't.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:17 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


What a fun article! Thanks for posting it, OP!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh my, yes. Steal anything from corporations that you can get away with! They constantly do the same to you!
posted by zscore at 9:27 PM on September 2, 2013


I used to steal guns for my G.I. Joes. The coolest guns always came with the stupidest-looking characters, so I would peel open the blister and the guns would "accidentally" fall out onto the toy shop floor, and from there it is quite a simple process to "accidentally" spit out your bubble gum and then "scramble" to fetch it back up, "inadvertently" (Mattel is huge btw) getting the freshly-released guns all "mixed up" in the gum, and you pick up the whole filthy mass and cram it into your maw and then mum says it's time to go home and you keep chewing the floor-gum but not too much because you don't want to ruin the little plastic G.I. Joe guns, and then you get home and it is simply a matter of removing the gum from the guns and BAM, Tunnel Rat is dual-wielding strawberry-scented M-60s! Of course due to the nature of the plastic mold for the G.I. Joe hands he can only hold his M-60s sideways, so you have to ever-so-gently twist them forward-facing a bit, and then his thumb comes off, and no matter what they tell you about super-glue, nothing gets a G.I. Joe thumb back on once it's off. NOTHING.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


For example we agree, soberly, as a society that stealing a television is wrong, but that when a few people, by virtue of some unearned access to wealth and power control our public patrimony and distribute its resources in a criminally unequal way, we consider it a mark of innovation and craft?

Yes, especially when I get to decide who's wealth and power is unearned, and when distribution of resources is criminally unequal. The only problem here is when you don't agree with me.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand your comment, 2N2222. Collectively, as a society, we organize ourselves under the belief that petty theft is wrong, but withholding large amounts of wealth from a great many people to the point of penury and suffering is economic collateral damage. Why can't we, collectively, change that belief? It has nothing to do with this "I" you've introduced.
posted by Catchfire at 9:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess I must be slow and stupid, because I really liked this article and took most of what it said at face value.

I am walking the walk, ready to throw acid into children's faces, willingly spread typhoid and syphillis, &c.

See you on the barricades.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:42 PM on September 2, 2013


I'm going to spend all evening assembling a special Nun-Bomb. Fun fact: it's not a bomb made of nuns!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:43 PM on September 2, 2013


Catchfire: "I don't understand your comment, 2N2222. Collectively, as a society, we organize ourselves under the belief that petty theft is wrong, but withholding large amounts of wealth from a great many people to the point of penury and suffering is economic collateral damage. Why can't we, collectively, change that belief? It has nothing to do with this 'I' you've introduced."

The vagueness about what "change that belief" actually means is the biggest problem with this article. And yes - I read it all before commenting. You might note that the author is quite literally advocating the idea petty theft is excusable in a lot of modern circumstances. He doesn't say "oh, I was just kidding about stealing a stapler from Bed Bath & Beyond." He doesn't indicate that this was simply metaphorical. He really does seem to be saying that theft is itself a vague thing that can and should be completely redefined.

But it isn't. Theft is wrong. It isn't a shifting concept; it is quite firm. The plutocrats of today have redefined it, but that doesn't mean it's okay if we attempt to do the same thing. If anything, we should be insisting on a fundamental and basic idea of what property is in order to stymie the schemes of modern plutocracy.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


chaz: How could this happen,

Reagan.

and what would be legitimate and feasible methods to bring back middle class income gains?

If by "legitimate and feasible" you mean "short of an armed revolution in which the 99% put the 1% up against the wall," then nothing. We're fucked.
posted by tzikeh at 10:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think "Theft is wrong. It isn't a shifting concept; it is quite firm." is very well-considered at all. Is it wrong to steal weapons from a genocidal dictator? If the answer is that it's not wrong because the items were ill-begotten and to be used to inflict suffering, well, that's exactly the argument of the OP's article.
posted by threeants at 10:10 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mean, sure, if we're going to adopt a definition of theft that approaches near-meaninglessness by being basically synonymous to "doing immoral things", ok. I can get on board with that being universally wrong. It's tautological. But if theft is defined, more sensibly, as any transaction of belongings that occurs without explicit consent, proclaiming it wrong across the board becomes untenable as well as ahistorical.
posted by threeants at 10:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't understand your comment, 2N2222. Collectively, as a society, we organize ourselves under the belief that petty theft is wrong, but withholding large amounts of wealth from a great many people to the point of penury and suffering is economic collateral damage. Why can't we, collectively, change that belief? It has nothing to do with this "I" you've introduced.

It has everything to do with "I", if "we, collectively" are full of shit, according to I.

Your post, despite being questionably framed as being full of "we", is most certainly full of you.

Not to mention that "withholding large amounts of wealth from a great many people" is something those "withholding" would probably take issue with. Humans have been down the road where "we, collectively", decide that large amounts of wealth can be redistributed. Once that Rubicon is crossed, it turns out that any amount of wealth can be redistributed, or any freedom curtailed, if "we, collectively" deem it in the best interests of the collective. It end up in tears.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:38 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses sociopaths
posted by mstokes650 at 10:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Shoplifting is a victimless crime. Like punching someone in the dark"

Nelson Muntz
posted by Redhush at 10:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


It has everything to do with "I", if "we, collectively" are full of shit, according to I.

So the popular vote is illegitimate?

It end up in tears.

So does the path we're on now.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


You want organized crime--I'm talking Silk Road
I have strong opinions about why Silk Road is bad and why bitcoin is immoral and a whole bunch of other shit, and I have put them on a cleverly made sign so that you will be able to read them as I stand here, receding into the distance
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:44 PM on September 2, 2013


No gains will be made without the very wealthy fearing for their very lives.
posted by anemone of the state at 10:45 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


All property is theft anyway
posted by MartinWisse at 10:48 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good article, except for: "a handful of wealthy people who rely on the labor and genius of others to make themselves wealthier." I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.

That's the Jobs/Gates myth of entrepreneurship: our billionaires deserve their wealth because they work hard; so does every poor slob having to work three jobs to keep their head above water. Where's their money?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


Man, this guy. I am just going to put his writings past, present, and future - even his jottings come personally blessed by the Emir of Qatar himself - on the permanent ignore list:

He strongly disagrees with several political/policy positions taken by David Simon - therefore, it follows, in the author's characteristic mangled logic, that The Wire was not a great TV show.


He is kind of right about the last season though
(but one doesn't have to be a one-time straight news reporter to get to that conclusion)
posted by Bwithh at 10:51 PM on September 2, 2013


No gains will be made without the very wealthy fearing for their very lives.

Looong before that we've gotta figure out how to deal with the thing where half of the very poor tell the other half to shut up and stop whining about their lot in life. The romantic myth of buckling down and gritting your teeth and giving your all for table scraps and being goddamn grateful for it as some sort of virtue is the thousand-mile-wide moat around the castle.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:52 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


This article is being promoted as a Labor Day read on Twitter, including by The New Inquiry.
Which is depressing and even offensive given that it barely mentions unions or collective action, and when it does, it's in passing while recommending a practice which undermines collective organizing:

"Collective action is the ideal, but individual direct actions aren’t without merit, least of all to the individuals in question. You can always lift office supplies at the same time you try to organize fellow office workers."
posted by Bwithh at 10:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


threeants: "I don't think 'Theft is wrong. It isn't a shifting concept; it is quite firm.' is very well-considered at all. Is it wrong to steal weapons from a genocidal dictator? If the answer is that it's not wrong because the items were ill-begotten and to be used to inflict suffering, well, that's exactly the argument of the OP's article... I mean, sure, if we're going to adopt a definition of theft that approaches near-meaninglessness by being basically synonymous to 'doing immoral things', ok. I can get on board with that being universally wrong. It's tautological. But if theft is defined, more sensibly, as any transaction of belongings that occurs without explicit consent, proclaiming it wrong across the board becomes untenable as well as ahistorical."

That's not how I believe right and wrong work, really. I mean: extenuating circumstances don't change the right and wrong of it; that's the tragedy of a world that muddies these boundaries. I do believe that it's still wrong to steal even if it's weapons you're stealing from a genocidal dictator; it is obviously not as great a wrong as allowing people to be killed, but that doesn't mitigate the wrong of the act even if in certain circumstances a moral person is compelled to commit it.

A more illuminating example, I think, is the classic one: a parent steals food to feed their family which otherwise has no way of eating. In this case, theft is still wrong, and I think it's easy to see the effects of that wrong: they lose dignity, they lose agency, their children likely have to see those things happen to their parent. Of course no one would blame the parent for making the choice between two evils and choosing what is obviously the lesser; but that doesn't change the fact that the stealing itself was wrong. If it weren't wrong, then this wouldn't be a moral quandary. It's just not as wrong as allowing children to starve.

Even if we believe that acts are all particular to their circumstances and that really just laws can't be formulated as absolutes, I think it's clear that having this rule as part of the social contract - the rule that "it is wrong to steal" - is a necessary condition for the functioning of society, and one that ought to be kept simple and straightforward. In the same way, "it is wrong to murder someone" is a good rule to hem to even if society sometimes finds it necessary to kill, in war or in punishing people. I do agree with the author that it should be more simple and straightforward than it is - if that is what the author is saying. The trouble is that he generally seems to be saying 'it doesn't actually matter what theft means, since that meaning changes, so we should just redefine it however we want based on what serves us in particular.'
posted by koeselitz at 11:05 PM on September 2, 2013


anemone of the state: "No gains will be made without the very wealthy fearing for their very lives."

This just seems obviously false to me, and destructive to boot. It should be clear why it's false; because we have no experience that suggests that it's true. The very wealthy have not feared for their lives in our society for many, many years; some might argue that they hardly ever have no matter how far we go back, depending on our definition of "very wealthy." Changes have obviously happened, some of them very big, since the last time that happened. Are you suggesting that absolutely none of those changes were gains?

This is the kind of thinking about revolutions that Marx made popular. Marx had many worthwhile insights, but with this silly conceit he and the other revolutionists of the past century (some fascist, some communist, some in between) caused incalculable damage. This is the idea that gave us Stalin, after all. I think it should be clear by now that the revolutionary paradigm is reckless and childish except in very few and very particular circumstances. The rule of law and the ability to arbitrate justice, such as the democratic nations have now, is worth more, and throwing that away in favor of a bloody chaotic mess where the poor are more likely to die anyway would be a terrible gamble.
posted by koeselitz at 11:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing with distribution is that everything's a negotiation. It's just that the very rich have near-unfathomable power, whereas the poor have almost none. The rich are organized through companies and governments, while poor people in the US get constantly union-busted.

The means to a more equitable society is to put the powerful in such a position that they have to make major concessions, out of fear that not doing so will cause them great personal discomfort.

This was what worked for King and Gandhi. You don't put the powerful against a wall: You put them in a position where they have to make concessions or look like such monsters that they don't dare appear in public.
posted by anemone of the state at 11:25 PM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


All that being said, petty theft isn't a very productive means forward. Organizing is.
posted by anemone of the state at 11:27 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If by "legitimate and feasible" you mean "short of an armed revolution in which the 99% put the 1% up against the wall," then nothing. We're fucked.

Well, given that the 99% doesn't care enough about other people to do something about mass murder via nerve gas, it's a bit silly to expect them to rise up over something as trivial as income disparity.
posted by happyroach at 11:57 PM on September 2, 2013


You don't put the powerful against a wall: You put them in a position where they have to make concessions or look like such monsters that they don't dare appear in public.

This has been true for as long as I've been around, which is a long time, but not any more.

Never have I seen so many "important" people openly claim absolute lies to be truths, claim privileges and perks just because they think they have a personal right to the very best of everything, deny basic needs to the poorest while they gloat over their own wealth, disparage thinkers and honor the brainless. These are the "monsters" you speak of, but they have no sense of shame and they love to appear in public and shout at the top of their lungs. They don't care what anyone thinks. Arrogant blowhards have always been around, but they had very little power - no one paid much attention to them. Sometimes I can't believe how much that has changed.
posted by aryma at 12:03 AM on September 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


As inequitable as the situation is and as morally unjust as it is, it's also dangerous. It's dangerous because when you concentrate a disproportionate amount of wealth in just a few places, you open yourself up to Systemic risk.

So the great irony here is that it may be that the only thing that will change the status quo would be when the wealth hoarders inadvertently destroy the system that allowed them to hoard in the first place. This is probably the only event that would evaporate their largely notional wealth - and thus their very real control.

Not that this would be a particularly pleasant thing for the rest of us to live through....
posted by digitalprimate at 12:07 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, real progress usually requires that the powerful "fear" something, usually losing their power.

I'd consider the Cold War to be the upper classes in competing empires fearing one another, koeselitz, maybe not exactly fearing for their immediate lives, but definitely fearing for their power. And, sure enough, unions, women's rights, civil rights, etc. all benefited enormously from the Cold War.

I certainly consider pirating cultural products to be the most moral entertainment option. Petty theft does almost nothing however because retail prices account for theft. Instead, you should shop with companies that avoid the usual retail chain, like aliexpress, many ebay sellers, Costco, etc.

All these actions constitute "feel good" personal protests though, like vegetarianism, not economically significant actions that cause "fear" amongst the powerful.

Would our society improve if returning vets assassinated CEOs and board members more often than they committed suicide? I donno, maybe if it became a thing, but that's quite the cultural shift, extremely messy, and easy to stop by properly funding the VA.

You want something that's reliably directed for good, extremely personally damaging to the powerful, and difficult to stop. At present, all the leaks, hacking, etc. sounds like better moves.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ever buy a movie on iTunes instead of downloading it for free on The Pirate Bay?

Um, yes? Well not movies since I have netflix. But other media.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 AM on September 3, 2013


Remember: While you maybe don’t want that extra stapler or Keurig coffeemaker, Bed Bath & Beyond will probably accept it for in-store credit.

without a receipt? - i doubt it

this guy's never done what he claims others should do
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait. I'm supposed to show my support for the revolutionary process and the necessity of providing freedom to the masses by stealing a TV?

The revolution will not be televised.
posted by jefflowrey at 4:10 AM on September 3, 2013


I do believe that it's still wrong to steal even if it's weapons you're stealing from a genocidal dictator

And this is why deontic ethics is shit and should be laughed out of every room.

A more illuminating example, I think, is the classic one: a parent steals food to feed their family which otherwise has no way of eating. In this case, theft is still wrong, and I think it's easy to see the effects of that wrong: they lose dignity, they lose agency, their children likely have to see those things happen to their parent. Of course no one would blame the parent for making the choice between two evils and choosing what is obviously the lesser; but that doesn't change the fact that the stealing itself was wrong. If it weren't wrong, then this wouldn't be a moral quandary. It's just not as wrong as allowing children to starve.

Isn't it fascinating how it's only poor people who are forced to do wrong? Goodness, what a system of morality you have, in which the impoverished are forced to be the moral inferiors of the rich.

Even if we believe that acts are all particular to their circumstances and that really just laws can't be formulated as absolutes, I think it's clear that having this rule as part of the social contract - the rule that "it is wrong to steal" - is a necessary condition for the functioning of society, and one that ought to be kept simple and straightforward. In the same way, "it is wrong to murder someone" is a good rule to hem to even if society sometimes finds it necessary to kill, in war or in punishing people.

It honestly doesn't sound like you're describing morality at all, if your morality is so useless that it can be broken freely given a compelling reason.


This just seems obviously false to me, and destructive to boot. It should be clear why it's false; because we have no experience that suggests that it's true. The very wealthy have not feared for their lives in our society for many, many years; some might argue that they hardly ever have no matter how far we go back, depending on our definition of "very wealthy." Changes have obviously happened, some of them very big, since the last time that happened. Are you suggesting that absolutely none of those changes were gains?

Pure fantasy. Your ignorance of the history of labor, sexual, and racial conflict in the US alone is shocking.

This is the kind of thinking about revolutions that Marx made popular.

You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, but for some reason it doesn't stop you from talking.



This was what worked for King and Gandhi. You don't put the powerful against a wall: You put them in a position where they have to make concessions or look like such monsters that they don't dare appear in public.

The depiction of MLK as a paragon of pure reason and moral persuasion who somehow with his magical voice talked the white man around to granting some concessions, free of any sort of external circumstances that might have influenced this fantasy encounter, is almost as infuriating a liberal whitewash as the fantasy story of how Gandhi and his followers freed India through moral superiority alone.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:41 AM on September 3, 2013 [19 favorites]




Halogenhat: "Good article, except for: "a handful of wealthy people who rely on the labor and genius of others to make themselves wealthier." I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either."

I'll agree that many are not scared of working, but I can assure you they are not, as a whole, disproportionately more intelligent. Most are wealthy through inheritance and privilege, or ambition and ruthlessness (or both). The geniuses, as always, are the exceptions.
posted by Red Loop at 4:51 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of thinking about revolutions that Marx made popular. Marx had many worthwhile insights, but with this silly conceit he and the other revolutionists of the past century (some fascist, some communist, some in between) caused incalculable damage. This is the idea that gave us Stalin, after all.

Good God man, I think it's at least a little bit more complicated than that! Or are we all going to be reduced to the level of historical analysis found in THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM?

I think that the wealthy need a better answer to the charge that some of them are beneficiaries of a deeply unfair and parasitic - and thieving - system than "theft is always wrong, but don't you dare say we are the biggest thieves" and, "If you do start asking, you are starting down a path that leads inevitably to genocide".

Those are terrible arguments! In fact, they are so terrible that they will probably inflame a lot of anger, because they smack of willfully missing the point.

I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.

Without wishing to be rude, I can say that this does not agree at all with my extensive experience of wealthy people. They are often clever and hardworking, but no more so than the average clever and hardworking person who does not have millions - certainly less so than the average academic or lawyer or accountant. Many inherited their wealth. Many were well-educated, but only a very stupid person would mistake that for being the same thing as intelligence. No, I think one only has to listen to the wealthy for any length of time to see that they are not anything like "geniuses". Some are cunning but I'm not sure that we should hold cunning up as being very admirable - it seems morally neutral to me and often consists in being good at precisely what this article identifies - getting a lot of work and value out of other people whilst doing relatively little oneself.
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:55 AM on September 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


The thing about rich, hard-working geniuses is that there's a LOT of really smart, really hard working people out there. Most of them are not uber-wealthy. Furthermore, most of the uber-wealthy? Not hard-working geniuses.

But even those hard-working geniuses who are uber-wealthy didn't get wealthy because of their hard work. They got wealthy because they got other people to do work and accept less value in compensation than their work generated. That's capitalism. That's the essence of making profit by employing people- you get people to do work and you pay them less than what they generated. (To do otherwise, of course, would make you no money!) Being a hard-working genius isn't what makes you rich.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:09 AM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


And I gotta say, I don't really care how hard you work, or how smart you are. If you've got ten billion dollars, you give 9.5 billion of it away. Morality is really that simple. Yes, I'm saying that objectively, in the world in which we live today, $500 mil is enough for you to scratch by on.

All of the people on this list have over twenty billion dollars each. The first guy, I forget his name, some Mexican telco guy, had something like seventy three billion dollars. I don't care if he's the smartest and hard-workingest guy on the planet, there is no reason for him to have that amount of money, and no reason for him to need to hold on to it, and certainly no compelling reason I can think of why he should get to keep it.

(Sure, I know, nobody actually really "has" twenty billion dollars, as it's all tied-up in financial fuckery. But come on. Once you've got a two in front of your nine zeros, it's time to really reassess what's going on in the world and in your life. There needs to be a salary cap on the population of the world.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:11 AM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


The problem with all y'all talking about morality on the individual level is that individual crime, as legitimately immoral as it is, pales before the sorts of mass-effect social immorality that happens when a few obscenely wealthy people hoard money instead of distributing it equally among people who legitimately need more money than they have. That hoarding is the indirect cause of a lot of individual crime: surprisingly, most criminals would rather not be criminals if given a choice.

(I mean an actual choice, by the way, not "live a horrible shitty life with no hope of betterment or break the law". Which is the choice a lot of people seem to be given.)

There is no specific law punishing people whose actions work against the betterment of society. I mean, that's what all the laws are supposed to be. People who are pushing strongly for "let the rich keep their gluts of money and let's be stricter about all those poors" are dismantling the thing that makes society works – namely, that it keeps everybody together instead of pushing them all apart. Which, funny enough, is exactly what leads to crime!

When you "dismantle the social contract", as my lefty friends are so fond of putting it, you're telling people who are worse off than you that you don't believe they deserve your support. And guess what? Sometimes those people who're worse off than you will resort to desperate measures to keep themselves afloat.

We have a caste of people who are virtually untouchable, and whose families could live off their fortunes without working for thousands of years. And those people are pushing for laws that would enable more people like them, at the detriment of every other citizen in the country/world. Those laws will be great for about seven people, and awful for everybody else.

I don't think that revolution is strictly necessary, because I have faith in young people having this shit pounded into their heads enough times that they understand why equality is good and such. But please don't act like the solution is for everybody to act like good Christian boys and girls, clasp their hands, and thank Jesus for what they've got. We live in a world where sometimes crime is necessary for a lot of people. Pointing to those people and saying "don't crime!" ignores the "necessary" part of that equation. What's immoral is that we create those necessary situations.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:09 AM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I still don't know what to make of this article having slept on it. Is the advice to steal an outrageous "hook" to get people to notice some worthy statistics and confront the injustice of our economic system? Is it a hyperbolic overstatement of resistance actions Davis actually endorses? Either way, I don't see how individuals stealing from corporations would have any reforming effect other than giving a false sense that makes people feel like they are doing something to alleviate their situation when they're not. And, as others have pointed out above, the system is set up such that that the costs of theft are felt by other individuals, not the corporate structure. There is no practical way to "steal" from the wealthiest that would have either an intimidating effect or affect their bottom line in a way they would notice.

Even if Davis just wants people to pay attention to the problem, his cavalier attitude toward solutions undermines his goal. I'm with Bwithh with regard to the need for collective action. Collective action, like the strike, works not because it puts fear into the powerful (though it may do that too). It works because it breaks the system that the powerful rely on. See the work of Gene Sharp for a more nuanced understanding of direct nonviolent action than popular misunderstandings of King and Gandhi.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:10 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never heard of him. I expect he is trying to change that.

Seems to be working.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:11 AM on September 3, 2013


Good article, except for: "a handful of wealthy people who rely on the labor and genius of others to make themselves wealthier." I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.
posted by Halogenhat at 7:47 PM on September 2 [1 favorite +] [!]
I'm picturing the mega-wealthy Bill Gates and the one that still works out of his garage. They are two different people.

In fact, I'm picturing all of the wealthy people I know personally, or wealthy people who are obviously wealthy and flaunt it openly on television sets across the country, (stolen or otherwise). The thing that they all share in common is that regardless of how hard those individuals work, they all have hundreds if not thousands of people currently ALSO working for them. Chances are, a number of those hundreds or thousands of people are also hard working as well, despite the fact that they are not wealthy.

Essentially, hard work is one thing, but it's not the defining factor in who becomes wealthy. Not by a long shot.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:37 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty: “Isn't it fascinating how it's only poor people who are forced to do wrong? Goodness, what a system of morality you have, in which the impoverished are forced to be the moral inferiors of the rich.”

Doing something that is wrong doesn't make a person morally inferior to those who are doing something that is much more wrong. I'm not sure you actually ready my comment here.

“It honestly doesn't sound like you're describing morality at all, if your morality is so useless that it can be broken freely given a compelling reason.”

That's why I prefaced that section of my comment with "even if you don't believe in morality."

“Pure fantasy. Your ignorance of the history of labor, sexual, and racial conflict in the US alone is shocking.”

I love how you've managed to put sentences together without actually saying anything about the subject at all.

“You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, but for some reason it doesn't stop you from talking.”

Again with the sentences that don't say anything.

Rory Marinich: “I don't think that revolution is strictly necessary, because I have faith in young people having this shit pounded into their heads enough times that they understand why equality is good and such. But please don't act like the solution is for everybody to act like good Christian boys and girls, clasp their hands, and thank Jesus for what they've got. We live in a world where sometimes crime is necessary for a lot of people. Pointing to those people and saying ‘don't crime!’ ignores the ‘necessary’ part of that equation. What's immoral is that we create those necessary situations.”

Yeah, a lot of people are jumping to interesting conclusions based on my comment. I appreciate that my understanding of morality is not the popular one, so I'll try to be clear. When I say "stealing is wrong in all situations," I am emphatically not saying "people should never steal." I am not advising people never to steal. I am pointing up the moral weight of theft, and the degradation involved when people are forced by a shitty system to steal if they or their children are going to survive. People should not be forced to do things that are wrong; and yet, in our society, they are forced to do things that are wrong every day. The solution is not for them to commit a greater wrong by letting their children starve. The solution is for the powers that be who have control over such things to put an end to the circumstances which force people to do things they should never have to do.

I get the feeling the issue here is that, after so many years of the revolutionary paradigm being soaked into the foundations of liberalism, we assume that some kind of revolution is the only way to change, and the only alternative is doing absolutely nothing. But I'm not for doing nothing, and I'm not for advising the poor to be nice and shut up and not steal from their good masters. There are other ways to change.
posted by koeselitz at 8:02 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stealing from your dear old grandmother’s purse is wrong (unless she’s mean).

Actually, it's still wrong if she's mean.


SCENARIO: stoned 14 year old liz has just been caught rooting around in gramma's purse

mom: HDU THIEF!
me: no but
mom: SHOW YOUR HANDS, SCOUNDREL!
me: *sadly reveals handful of pilfered jolly ranchers*
mom: ....
me: I AM A MONSTER


ok i will RTFA now
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2013


I would reckon that a wildly disproportionate number of these wealthy gluttons are geniuses themselves, and not scared of working either.
This would be a vast, wild deviation from what I've observed. Most wealthy people that I've met are just... normal.


Ahhh. ..the banality of evil.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:48 AM on September 3, 2013


- How could this happen,

- Reagan.


Abbie Hoffman and co. would disagree. Back in the 1960s and 70s, he and like-minded individuals were saying it was immoral to not steal from Amerikan corporations. From the introduction to Steal This Book:
Steal This Book is, in a way, a manual of survival in the prison that is Amerika. It preaches jailbreak. It shows you where exactly how to place the dynamite that will destroy the walls. ... It calls on the Robin Hoods of Santa Barbara Forest to steal from the robber barons who own the castles of capitalism. It implies that the reader already is "ideologically set," in that he understands corporate feudalism as the only robbery worthy of being called "crime," for it is committed against the people as a whole.
This was published back in 1971, after being rejected for publication by 30 publishers. Reagan was still Governor of California at this point, so you can't blame him for too much yet.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reagan was still Governor of California at this point, so you can't blame him for too much yet.

The hell I can't.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


hell, i used to blame reagan for death valley days and 20 mule team borax

B O R I N G
posted by pyramid termite at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2013


Steal one bag of rice and you're a thief. Steal all the rice in the kingdom and you're the king.
posted by wuwei at 2:14 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Doing something that is wrong doesn't make a person morally inferior to those who are doing something that is much more wrong.

I'll attack this point. Because our culture makes all of us complicit in a thousand tiny evils, just to be part of it and interact with people, and yet each of us is still better than, say, Josef Stalin. (Not to Godwin the thread.)
posted by JHarris at 2:38 PM on September 3, 2013


each of us is still better than, say, Josef Stalin.

man, I'm not nearly as ambitious or decisive as that guy was

:(
posted by hap_hazard at 3:54 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


People steal all the time from what they view as public property, though it's not theirs to take.
Do you* never, ever return your library books?**
Do you pick flowers that are planted in public places, or take fruit and vegetables from community gardens?
Do you steal magazines from the waiting rooms of public hospitals?
Do you "liberate" used clothes from thrift shops or Planet Aid boxes? Not long ago I saw someone being caught attempting to shoplift in a thrift shop.

The pillage of the commons is a self-perpetuating cycle, as impoverished people are tempted and find it easier to steal from these sources than to risk angering the corporations and their rabid security forces. Eventually, the public amenities will stop being funded due to the losses, and they will no longer be available to anyone.

* This is a rhetorical "you"; I'm not accusing all Metafilter.
**I'm aware that library books are a special case, and I'm willing to differentiate procrastination and denial (I'm going to return these books tomorrow...just not today) from blatant possession (ha ha, these books are mine!)
posted by bad grammar at 6:30 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you* never, ever return your library books?

No, I didn't. I returned my books, and I paid for all of the books that I lost.

I've never stolen from your other examples either. I've only given to them.
posted by agog at 9:50 PM on September 3, 2013


Eventually, the public amenities will stop being funded due to the losses, successful propaganda campaign


FTFY
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


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