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BS: Ethics of Opportunism

Ebbie 03 Jul 10 - 01:04 PM
Melissa 03 Jul 10 - 01:13 PM
Emma B 03 Jul 10 - 01:14 PM
Emma B 03 Jul 10 - 01:16 PM
Amos 03 Jul 10 - 01:18 PM
Ebbie 03 Jul 10 - 01:32 PM
Amos 03 Jul 10 - 01:38 PM
Leadfingers 03 Jul 10 - 01:52 PM
Richard Bridge 03 Jul 10 - 01:57 PM
Paul Burke 03 Jul 10 - 01:59 PM
Ebbie 03 Jul 10 - 02:05 PM
Melissa 03 Jul 10 - 02:09 PM
artbrooks 03 Jul 10 - 05:33 PM
Janie 03 Jul 10 - 06:49 PM
Mrrzy 03 Jul 10 - 06:56 PM
Bobert 03 Jul 10 - 07:10 PM
Emma B 03 Jul 10 - 07:18 PM
Janie 03 Jul 10 - 07:31 PM
Ebbie 03 Jul 10 - 10:43 PM
mousethief 03 Jul 10 - 11:36 PM
Amos 03 Jul 10 - 11:59 PM
Janie 04 Jul 10 - 01:28 AM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 10:45 AM
SINSULL 04 Jul 10 - 11:00 AM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 11:43 AM
Ed T 04 Jul 10 - 12:25 PM
VirginiaTam 04 Jul 10 - 12:36 PM
Greg F. 04 Jul 10 - 12:51 PM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 01:43 PM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 01:57 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:11 PM
Greg F. 04 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 02:17 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:18 PM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 02:22 PM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:35 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:43 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 03:01 PM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 03:15 PM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 03:45 PM
Janie 04 Jul 10 - 03:50 PM
Ed T 04 Jul 10 - 04:59 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 05:07 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 05:16 PM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 05:58 PM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 06:15 PM
mousethief 04 Jul 10 - 07:30 PM
Greg F. 04 Jul 10 - 07:32 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Jul 10 - 08:09 PM

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Subject: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:04 PM

This story is in the news today and it brings up a conflicted response in me. Why is it ILLEGAL to catch gasoline from a wrecked and leaking gasoline tanker?   Why is it ILLEGAL to take things from a store that is in the process of being smashed by an earthquake or inundated by a wave? Why is it ILLEGAL to make use of something that is going to waste?

I recognize the dangers inherent in the practice but that is a separate story. My question is: Why is it an actionable offense?


KINSHASA, Congo — A fuel tanker truck flipped over and burst in flames in eastern Congo overnight, killing at least 220 villagers and wounding more than 200 — some of whom had rushed to siphon leaking liquid from the vehicle illegally, the U.N. and local officials said Saturday.

****

"A fire started, and the people trying to siphon the fuel were killed or injured," Mounoubai told The Associated Press. "Right now, we are talking about 220 dead and 111 wounded, but this is not the final toll. This is a very fluid situation."

****

Desperately poor people in Congo — which is still struggling to recover from a 1998-2002 war — often descend quickly around damaged or disabled oil trucks leaking fuel on roads and highways, carting it away with plastic jugs, unaware of the danger of doing so.

This Story


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Melissa
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:13 PM

Why do they have so many damaged or disabled oil trucks?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Emma B
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:14 PM

The danger associated with that kind of 'salvage' probably speaks for itself

In 2006    story made headlines and posed some ethical problems in the UK


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Emma B
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:16 PM

sorry the link didn't work
- this story


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:18 PM

It is not the property of the person taking it. There's nothing unethical about it. It just violates an agreed-upon code of morals, is all. Viva law difference!



A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:32 PM

But Amos, is it better to see something that does not belong to me burn up? When I could make use of it?

When a person is stranded during bad weather - not a hypothetical question in Alaska - is it a crime to take down a deer because it is not hunting season?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:38 PM

No, it is NOT better, Ebb--it's just more legal. The code of conduct defined by agreeing to laws, often enforced with guns and batons, is an entirely different study than the question of right action of optimum choices toward "goodness". It should not be a big surprise that the two do not overlap. You are posing a question from a sense of what is ethical -- meaning innately better as a choice of action -- from which view it makes perfect sense to salvage gasoline from a leaking truck. Under SOME circumstances it might even be covered by Salvage Law.

But those who prosecuted the siphoners were simply applying the law, regardless of rightness or wrongness in the particular situation. That's a different kettle of fish altogether.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:52 PM

Melissa asked Why do they have so many damaged or disabled oil trucks? -
The Financial Situation in LARGE parts of the third world are such that maintaining a vehicle to 'Normal' Western standards is almost impossible - But of course in USA you wouldnt find ANYONE running an Unroadworthy vehicle , would you ??


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:57 PM

The reason it is illegal is that in most common law and civil law jurisdictions the law recognises rights of property, and that which is taken is not the property of the person taking it. End of story.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 01:59 PM

I can see you pampered lot know nothing about poverty.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 02:05 PM

See, I have a problem with the notion that it is better to let precious fuel run uselessly onto and into the ground on the basis that it does not belong to me.

(I have no problem with ownership as such. My mother and I, in my turn, taught our children with a simple admonition: Don't touch that - it isn't yours.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Melissa
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 02:09 PM

As a matter of fact, in the USA, I would find ME driving a not-so-good vehicle..not because it's what I choose.

If a company is losing a load (and a truck) every month, wouldn't it be cheaper to stabilize an occasional truck?


Ebbie,
If you're saying that it seems wrong and Dog In The Manger for people to put so much effort into keeping others from using stuff that is considered useless/trash, I agree with you.

Surely the folks who ran out to siphon gas KNOW it's a risk..and the risk of being burned seems worth taking because they're that poor and can use whatever is being wasted. What in hell is gained by bringing the Wrath of Law on their heads?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: artbrooks
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 05:33 PM

A problem with condoning - or permitting - "salvaging" from a broken truck, a store on fire, and so forth is that one then sees many more broken trucks. It is different if the owner gives permission, of course.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 06:49 PM

I am reminded of tales of the inhabitants of the OuterBanks of NC, (and I believe I have read of similar customs along the coasts of the British Isles), of luring ships to founder on rocky shoals with false guiding lights, so the denizens could claim the salvage.

I think it is one of those things, Ebbie, where the laws really can't allow for some situations where such conduct is OK and others where it is not. There can be a fine line between looting and salvaging.

In the case of grabbing stuff from a burning building or truck, the laws also protect people from endangering themselves and 1st responders, firemen, etc.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Mrrzy
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 06:56 PM

Right, and remember, if they're black, they're looting, and if they're white, they are finding what they need... at lerat according to teh katrina coverage!


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bobert
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 07:10 PM

The laws are hogwash... I mean, as long as a corporation owns what it thinks is it's "property" then under no circumstance can anyone infringe on it's property rights...

Yet these same corporations gather much of what they consider to be their "property" in a manner that pollutes my air (my property rights) and pollutes my water (my property right)???

Like I said, the laws are hogwash... Either we respect property rights or we don't... Can't have it both ways...

B~


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Emma B
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 07:18 PM

"Oh please Lord, let us pray for all on the sea
But if there's got to be wrecks, please send them to we."

Some myths and realities of salvaging/scavenging on the Cornish coast
BBC News report 2002


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 07:31 PM

Ebbie, it also occurs to me that I don't know if your question is about ethics and legality. The two terms are not interchangeable.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 10:43 PM

They should be interchangeable, Janie. Remember when the 'computer age' was going to make everything better? No more car mechanic being made a cook in the military, no more personnel pay mix ups at the office...

Well, there should also be no misunderstanding of what is 'illegal and punishable' versus what is morally acceptable.

If I were stranded in a remote area, whether from a plane crash or a malfunctioning boat and I had resorted to capturing, killing and eating 'illegal' game or fish I would be mightily pissed to find myself subjected to legal penalties upon return to civilization.

Some years back a small plane was not able, due to bad weather, to return in a timely fashion to pick up some state workers in an Alaska cabin. By the time the weather cleared, the workers were down to a handful of candy bars and crackers. By their own account, they danged near starved.

There were salmon, dolly varden, halibut, grayling and more at their door.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 11:36 PM

They should be interchangeable, Janie. Remember when the 'computer age' was going to make everything better? No more car mechanic being made a cook in the military, no more personnel pay mix ups at the office...

Well, there should also be no misunderstanding of what is 'illegal and punishable' versus what is morally acceptable.


If everybody agreed on what was immoral, that would work, I suppose. But when one group of people thinks something is immoral (say, oh, just randomly, abortion) and one does not, whose feelings about immorality do we want the law to embody?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 11:59 PM

The core difference is between individual knowing and sensing optimum action--the innate sense of ethics -- and the substitute system of morality by agreement.

There is nothing inherently wrong, for example with cannibalism per se, but it is rarely an ethical choice except for extreme situations such as that of the Donner party.

But by long-standing inherited moral agreements we have a code that is so deepseated as to make the notion repulsive, if not nauseating.

As Janie points out there is no easy way for the law to be flexible enough to deal with change.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 01:28 AM

I would take it a step further, Amos, and say there is no way for the law to not be, at times, arbitrary.


Blind Justice

Ebbie, I disagree that ethical and legal should be synonymous, simply because they can not be.   There is no such thing as a perfect world.

I believe the rule of law is very sensible and ultimately fosters the more or less stable social systems that humankind, being both very individualistic and also very dependent on social organization, require to live within that paradox.

The Law, at it's very best, can only approximate ethics. Sometimes it is ethical to break the law, even a "good" law. Sometimes it is not.

Sometimes people do what they have to in order to survive, against the law or not. Sometimes people do what they want to do,, against the law or not.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 10:45 AM

Couldn't agree more. One reason, of course, is that a law must be anchored to the conditions in the time at which it was written, and cannot take into account data which changes later than that. Another is that the nature of the beat is to reflect the interests and biases of the authors.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: SINSULL
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 11:00 AM

I have puzzled over the same question, Ebbie. An earthquake destroys a town. People who were poor before now have absolutely nothing. How can it be illegal to take water and food from a store that is falling down and abandoned?
Would I really stand by with starving children and say "No dearies. We can't touch that. It belongs to someone else. Just lie down quietly and die."
I read the story of the oil truck when it first happened. I don't believe I would have the courage to go near a damaged fuel truck no matter how desperate I was. Burning to death (hopefully because survival in those circumstances would be a thousand times worse) would just not be an option for me.
Every day I am thankful for what I have. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and enough to share. Troubles come and I have the friends and the means to handle them. I grew up poor but not in poverty. Poor still meant a roof over my head and food on the table, some to share, with friends to help out. Paul Burke has a point. How can any of us comprehend the poverty that forces a family in India to camp out on a street corner and be grateful to call it home?
Off topic. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 11:43 AM

It is illegal partly because, it it weren't, sabotage in order to create opportunities would be more common. In the case of tornados, fires, earthquakes...etc... it is not up the the opportunists to decide which materials and goods are salvageable by the owner.

The problem is similar to jaywalking laws...everyone knows that there are situations where it should not be a problem, but the law needs to be there for cases where stupidity causes a problem. The law, obviously, can be ignored in extraordinary cases, so SINSULLs thoughts are really NOT off-topic.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ed T
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 12:25 PM

In most countries prostitution is illegal. Yet, it thrives, and has for eons. Some say it is not an ethical persuit. Yet, many law enforcement ageicies turn a blind eye....unless citizens complain, someone is harmed, or other crimes are associated.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 12:36 PM

computer age making life better?

conflict free electronics


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Greg F.
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 12:51 PM

My mother and I, in my turn, taught our children with a simple admonition: Don't touch that - it isn't yours.

Methinks you just answered your own question.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 01:43 PM

You pathetioc bunch. Try to imagine what it's like to be in poverty. You complacent, greedy, judgemental, rich, guzzling shower.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 01:57 PM

"You pathetioc bunch..

Kinda sweeping generalization, Paul... are you suggesting that poverty, in and of itself, justifies 'taking' things at all times? just at certain times? whenever it's unlikely to be stopped?

When you condemn the " ..complacent, greedy, judgemental, rich, ..", you need to be willing to clarify your rules.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:11 PM

I've been watching Big Brother in the UK and have followed some of the discussion about an arty squatter who lives in an abandoned building (in Mayfair) and eats dumped supermarket food waste (aka 'freeganism'). It's been fascinating and indeed dimaying to observe the petty, mean and ignorant attitudes of some people commenting on her behaviour as 'scrounging', 'stealing', 'lazy' and so-on.

I find the grotesque excesses of our society, where food is so abundant that half of it gets dumped to rot in landfills and property owners are so filthy rich that they can afford to forget and abandon buildings worth hundreds of thousands and allow them to fall into disrepair, far more morally disgusting than anyone taking something they might need in order to live.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Greg F.
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM

Hey, I need it, you got it, I take it, its mine.

a.k.a., Finders keepers, losers weepers.

Whats the problem?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:17 PM

Um, Paul. Some of us have been there. The fact that we are not there now is a prize from years of wrassling. Don't be so condescending and judgemental.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:18 PM

"Hey, I need it, you got it, I take it, its mine."

You would too. If starving or if your child was starving, you would steal to survive. Simples.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:22 PM

The problem? (I'll assume for the moment you are serious, Greg)

#1.."Finders keepers, losers weepers" is not the same as "I take it, its mine."
'Lost' stuff differs from stolen stuff.

#2.. If you 'take it', you may have NO idea what my situation is. I may be out of work, disabled and even poorer than you. I may seem to have what I need, but have NO means to replace what you take.

#3..If you actually did propose "I take it, its mine." as a valid rule, you would be admitting that I can act on the same rule, and we have a very interesting situation.....do I need to expand the explanation?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM

"... you would steal to survive."

I might... but I think I would use several alternatives first...You'd have to describe some very specific circumstances where there was almost NO alternative.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:35 PM

"I might... but I think I would use several alternatives first."

No doubt. But then I think in our affluent society words like "need" are interpreted in a much milder fashion than they might be in Africa say. I need air to survive, it's an imperative. Anything I need to survive describes an equivalent imperative. It's not like needing change for one's bus fare. People will do (and do do) almost anything when confronted with such actual needs. Including eating other people..


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:43 PM

PS I think that's the 'complacency' that Paul was describing. We live in such an affluent society that most of us are completely ignorant of the degree of poverty that might inspire people to scavenge from other's waste.

Now the squatter I was describing doesn't 'need' to scavenge, but the point I was making was that the moral crime, if any, is the gross excesses of a society that is so fat and morally self-satisfied, that it not only wastes vast resources, but then collectively condemns others who might make use of that waste.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:01 PM

It just struck me, I wonder how many of you folks in the US are the descendants of children transported from the UK, for the 'crime' of stealing a loaf of bread?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:15 PM

Amos, you have NOT been in poverty. Just a bit broke. Centuries of "wrassling" won't get the poor out of where they are. Mostly because of greedy sods in the west.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:45 PM

Oh, well, then, I feel much better, Paul. Thanks for tapping into your Cosmic Database and setting my head straight, then.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:50 PM

One more time, the terms ethical and legal are not synonyms.

If I had to steal to feed my kid I would do so and I would be very clear in my own mind that the need warranted the action. The ethics of not allowing my child to starve trump the ethics that I ought not take what does not belong to me. So, what happens is ethical values have to be prioritized. This means that sometimes I will violate one ethic in order to meet the requirements of an ethic I consider to be of higher value or priority.

Ethical dilemmas happen all the time.

Actually, Crow Sister, I haven't read anything here that suggests any of the posters fail to understand that some people live in such conditions. Nor do I think anyone has posted a condemnation of people for doing so.

Your remark about "stealing a loaf of bread" is a good illustration of what Amos was talking about in an earlier post. Times changed, attitudes changed, conditions changed. It took a good bit longer for the law to change.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ed T
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 04:59 PM

Coveting consumer goods in a "society of plenty" is very different than living in real need and poverty (a long term lack of proper housing, food, medical treatment and the basics of life) in many world societies.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:07 PM

"I haven't read anything here that suggests any of the posters fail to understand that some people live in such conditions. Nor do I think anyone has posted a condemnation of people for doing so."

I didn't say 'fail to understand' I said 'ignorant of'. By which I meant an absence of real personal or experiental knowledge of as opposed to intellectual or abstract "knowledge" of.

My comment on societal condemnation, was in reference to my prior posting about the Mayfair squatter (and many like her) receiving condemnatory comments from people following her story.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:16 PM

PS Janie, I realise my postings on this thread have been a bit uncoordinated, I hope that clarifies my meaning.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:58 PM

Just keep on with the smug, Amos mate. It suits you.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 06:15 PM

Well, I think you might have deserved a bit of a retort, Paul, for taking liberties. If not, of course I apologize. I am sure you know best.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 07:30 PM

The problem here is "I take it, it's mine" is true whether or not there is great need. Blanket justifications for theft go way beyond the abject poor attending to their needs. If I came and nabbed your car, would you be satisfied to give it up to me on the principle of "I took it, so it's mine"? Or would you use the legal system to try to get it back? Or would you wait until night and steal it back? How much anarchy and lawlessness are you prepared to embrace?

I don't see how dumpster diving is theft. Trying to portray it as such, or trying to make it illegal (or succeeding therein), are wrong.

I agree that the rich using their riches wastefully, while others go hungry and unsheltered, is a horrible wrong. But how far does that apply? If I let some leftovers go bad in the back of the fridge and throw them out, am I being as evil as a billionaire who lets living space go unused to drive up rents?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Greg F.
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 07:32 PM

'Lost' stuff differs from stolen stuff.

Righto! So ya find something someone lost & you've no obligation to return it to the rightful owner! Good deal!

I'll try to remember thatif found in possesion of someone else's property, but I don't think that excuse will cut much ice with a magistrate.

I'll let you know how it works....


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 08:09 PM

Clearly salvaging something that would otherwise be wasted is not stealing in any morally intelligible sense. However it would be reasonable for there to be a restriction on people doing it in a way that was highly dangerous, as was the case in the tragedy that underlies this thread.

Apart from the exception of public safety, then where there are laws which treat salvage of stuff that would otherwise go to waste as stealing, they are bad laws, which have no ethical status. There is a right, and indeed a duty, to resist such laws.

This sort of absurdity came up in the case of Katrina, where people engaged in salvaging foodstuffs were described as "looters".


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