Sunday Hot Takes, June 13th, 2021

Robin Hood and member democracy.

Why stealing isn’t as unethical as you think — Taylor-Raye Council, Old Dominion University

No, this article is not clickbait. I said what I said. When something is stolen, many instantly point fingers and look at the perpetrator(s) in disgust. However, people tend to neglect the fact that stealing typically results from a lack of resources. And no, I’m not necessarily talking about small instances like kids taking candy from the store, but more like people stealing clothes from billion-dollar companies that technically steal from their workers by exploiting their labor. 

Webster’s definition of stealing is “to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice.” This definition could apply to many businesses, companies, or just the wealthy in general. So why do people pick on the poor when it comes to them trying to survive or make ends meet? Who decides what’s ethical and what isn’t? I like to separate the ethics between generations. The Silent Generation (1925-1948) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are the generations that grew up with the idea that keeping one job for the rest of your life is ideal because it comes with many benefits, like retirement, that would help in the long run. Some would argue that they were able to get cars, houses, land, etc. easier than adults today because of the reassessment of the economy. Then we have Generation X (1965-1980), who I classify as a generation that stands alone when it comes to ethics and politics because their view of the world vary being that they grew up in a time where racism, capitalism, sexism, homophobia, etc. were all still very bad, but often compared to how it used to be in the previous years which made some have a “better is okay” mindset. I like to think of this generation as a bridge between the earlier generations and the later generations.  The millennials (1981 – mid-1990s) and Gen Z (mid-1990s – 2010) are the generations that see how unethical capitalism is, and act against it instead of having the “it is what it is” mindset. 

Both Millennials and Gen Z have people that take different approaches to capitalism but this focus is on the ethics of stealing. Some have a “Robin Hood” approach to stealing from multi-million dollar companies, some steal because that’s their last resort, and some just do it for the perks. The article “What shoplifting millennials teach us about anti-capitalist attitudes” explains how shoplifting alone is an anti-capitalist action and how millennials were making posts on tumblr with tags like #myhauls or #liftblr after doing excessive shoplifts from stores, then instructing how to remove security tags safely and informing loss prevention policies of well-known stores. Gustafson also states “Kleptomania and modern social/moral hostility to capitalism coincided with new levels of prosperity in the West, thanks to the Industrial Revolution” and how there is a “hierarchy” in the lifting-ethos where people only target multi-million dollar companies and not the small businesses. Gen Z’s ethics on stealing is similar to millennials, calling themselves “borrowers.” They often target the companies with “illiberal social stances” in an attempt to hurt the capitalist economy. The article “Tiktok teens are fighting capitalism with shoplifting” mentions how Gen Z has even taken it a step further by building up their “borrowing community” on TikTok, which is owned by the multi-billion dollar corporation Bytendace. 

As you can see, the ethics of stealing have changed from generation to generation and some could argue that it is becoming acceptable because more people are aware that our wants and needs should not be priced. 

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