Can Theft be Justified?

a homeless man in a subway station

Image by: Rui Duarte

Unfortunately, due to the recession and the constant financial woes that Americans as well as other nations face around the globe, hunger and poverty has risen as food has slowly become less affordable as a result of agricultural difficulties. While many stores are selling processed foods at lower prices, it can still be difficult for anyone to have enough money for food and this has led to an increasing number of homeless Americans. Increased homelessness has created a greater need for food banks in order to offer more options for the underprivileged to still be able to eat nourishing meals. With the alarming rate of food scarcity that many are faced with, it leaves little choice but for them to steal food in order to be able to avoid complete starvation for the functionality of their lives.

The Italian government has ruled that theft conviction in terms of food theft will not be considered a crime as long as the person who stole the food is in dire need of it. The food stolen must only be a small amount that is needed for immediate essential nutrients, acting only in a state of necessity. The court of cassation believes that as Italy tries to remain a civilized country, it will do everything possible to avoid the starvation that the underprivileged endure on the daily basis. One man was recently sentenced to six months in confinement and fined 100 euros for stealing the amount of food costing less than five euros. This is seemingly an injustice in terms of the punishment that he received for the small petty crime that was committed.

This begs the moral question, “is stealing always wrong?”, usually theft is matched with some sort of punishment but what if the reasoning behind the actual theft was one of pure economic hardship and desperation? I find this governmental change to be extremely interesting and I wonder if it could possibly work in America to better help homeless people by allowing them access to food without the worry of jail or not having financial stability to afford such food items. Yet, with the gluttony that has been publicly used to describe Americans, it can be worrisome that Americans may choose to take advantage of this opportunity in which they will begin stealing more than what they need at that time in order to selfishly help themselves. It may also lead to a higher crime rate of stealing and may negatively affect businesses as their profit lowers. Although, this is a nice gesture, it can easily be abused. In order for it to work, there should probably be a price limit of how much can be taken at once or some proof of hardship.

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