Property—Theft—Justice

A possible continuation after "Stop thief". Peter engages in a conversation with Mr. McGregor:

Peter: ... I'm no thief! I just had a little nibble at some of all the food you've got here. It's not fair that you call all of this yours!

McGregor: Yes it is! I've bought this place, so therefore I own it. And I have grown all the vegetables myself. That's why I decide who's going to nibble at them. If you take anything from this garden without asking me first, then you steal. And if you steal, you're a thief!

Peter: But I didn't mean to steal. I just wanted to taste some of it. Besides, I've got nothing myself. And you've got so much. You won't even notice it if I have a little taste here and there!

McGregor: Tell you what, Peter: if all the animals in the wood thought like you, I might just as well move out here and now. My garden would have been emptied within an hour! And after that, there would be no more food—for no one! No, we need to have some things straight—mine is mine and yours is yours! Go back to to the woods where you belong. Pick some berries, eat some grass like other sensible little rabbits. There's a good chap!

Peter: But I don't own anything! I don't even own the tree in which I live...

Discussion starters

I. Types of action

Is this a theft: to eat a carrot in the shop, to take sweets from the kitchen-drawer, to taste the doug, to pinch an apple from the neighbours apple-tree, to play with your sisters doll? Why/why not? When has a loan, a sample taste, suddenly become a theft?

II. What makes an action a theft?

Is it possible to steal something if nobody owns it in the first place? Is it possible that something is not owned by anybody at all? If you find a pound/dollar note lying on the street, you pick it up and keep it, is that a theft? Do you stop owning something when you loose it? Is something yours when you find it?

III. Extenuating circumstances

The following points may contribute to lessen the seriousness of a particular action, i.e. so that it is not to be counted as a theft. Or they may support a claim that the action is still a theft, but a less serious theft.

Justice

Is it perhaps alright to steal if there's a huge (economical, social) difference between the two parties? For instance, Peter owns nothing—Mr. McGregor has a huge garden. What if Peter had no mother to feed him, would it then be ok for him to dwell in Mr. McGregors garden?

Quantity

Is it theft if you only take one out of thousand apples? What if you take the only apple that is left? Meaning: is it the quantity that decides whether an action is a theft or not?

Lack of knowledge

What the person didn't know or couldn't have possibly known, does this make the action less grave?

Lack of self-control

What if you know what is the right thing to do at the bottom of your heart, but you just can't control yourself—is this a real excuse to steal something? (Remember the words of St. Paul: "the good that I want, I do not do, but the evil that I do not wish to do, I do").

Permission

If your neighbour gives you permission to take apples from his tree, is your picking them no longer a theft? No matter how many apples you take?

IV. Property

What can you own? All living and dead things? Only dead things? Do your parents own you the same way they own the car and the flat (what about the child care institutions?)? Do you own your animal in the same way that you own your toys? Do you own your body? Do you own your thoughts? Can you own a plant or a wood?

What does it mean to own something? That you have aquired it the right way: by purchase, by gift, by loan? That you decide over it 100%? That you have created it by yourself? Is power=justice? In other words: is it right that the strongest and biggest always decides?

V. Crime and punishment

What to do if you have stolen something? Should you be punished? What happens if nobody gets punished when they have stolen something?

Page created: 27.09.06. Page last modified: 10.10.06 14:00.