Tuesday, 27 May 2008
02:24:29 PM (GMT)
Brought this subject up on the FT and received a bit of resistance. This was my
Stealing products, selling them (with the price down a bit), and donating the money
to charity: Ethical or not?
For the purpose of this we will assume I'm stealing from a mid to large chain of
shops. Well call them, oh.. I don't know, Bainsbury's.
We'll also take on an ethical utilitarianist point of view.
Try to keep an open mind. Most people who haven't considered this in depth will
believe that shoplifting is wrong simply because that's what we're taught. Not to say
you haven't thought about it, but still.
So who loses out if I steal the product.. we'll call it Quoke?
Well, the Quoke company won't lose out, because its already sold the product to
On the surface of it, it seems Bainsbury's loses out. But... Bainsbury's isn't a
person, and people are what matters tbh. So which people lose out?
Shops aren't stupid, they know people are going to steal their goods. They put in
loss-prevention systems to minimise the loss they make when someone tries to steal
something, but they'll only put in as much as is worth their while (i.e. if their
security system costs more than they would lose to shop lifters were it not there,
they'd get rid of it). Furthermore, the shops aren't going to just take the hit on
their profit. No, they shift the price onto the buyers. So, when you buy a product,
you're also paying a little slice of the amount that shoplifters cost the company.
So, again, it seems like shoplifters are making things worse by driving prices up.
But, again, the company could easily take the hit, and they have far more money, so
who is the 'criminal' here? The shoplifter who steals (consider what their reasons
might be), or the company (who has FAR more money than you and the shoplifter
combined) that reflects the cost back onto you rather than taking the hit itself?
What's more, who drives up the prices more, the shoplifters or Bainsbury's? (Clue:
It's Bainsbury's) And, what do you think happens to the surplus of money that occurs
if people don't shoplift as much? They don't give it back, that's for sure.
Not such a simple question, right?
Going on to the next stage, we'll look at who loses/gains from me selling the item
back for less than its price in the shop.
- The workers? Nope, they've got a fixed wage.
- The security staff? Maybe, they might lose a bonus for letting too much
shoplifting go on, but then again, who imposes that? Bainsbury's, not me.
- The shareholders? Maybe, they all get a slice of the profit of the company, so
they might conceivably get less profit. How much less? Perhaps a few fractions of a
penny if it's a big theft. But is that even true?
That's it. Simple. Next stage: donating the money to charity. Say I donate to... the
- The consumer? They win, since I'm selling it to them for a cheaper price. Though,
again, the consumers as a group do lose from the last stage. But the person who
bought the product off of me is better off.
So, here is what we have identified:
Losses: The consumers as a group pay a small amount more.
Gains: The woman whose life is saved.
Even if we leave it at that, we can see pretty easily that the net ethical capital is
in favour of shoplifting.
The loss itself... I'm not even convinced it's a true loss. The customers pay the
surplus whether I shoplift or not, they don't have a choice one way or the other.
And, if you're angry that the shoplifters are takin' all ur moneys, ask yourself:
when I purchase, who pockets the most of your mone? It isn't the shoplifters, it
isn't the workers, it's the people who own the business.
Sure, if they just took home a fair wage, it would be fine. But they don't, they take
home maybe more than you'll earn in your whole life. Do they need it? Very probably
not. Do they need it more than the charities? Most certainly not. Is it fair? Is it
fair that they have loads of money when most people don't have a snowdrop's chance in
P.S: Yes, this entry is angry, but it's something I'm rather passionate and (yes)
angry about, for obvious reasons.
- Someone who needs medical attention gains, perhaps their life is saved, perhaps
they keep a limb, who knows?
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