Stewart Gault

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Modern day Robin Hood

Say a group of burglars rob a bank which only holds accounts for people who have more than £10 million. So everyone who holds an account is therefore filthy rich and doesn't need all of it.
Now suppose this group of burglars takes around £100 million in total. Though they don't keep a single penny of it, they go around giving cash to the homeless, those in poverty, give some to charities etc etc.
Now say they get caught.
Should they be punished by the law for theft?
Even if you think they should be punished is what they did not surely a very moral action? Is it morally right to allow them to be persecuted for doing an ultimate good?
Should the owners of the robbed accounts and the bank owners drop the charges?

  • Jul 6 2012: hmm good question...

    But yes, my view would change...slightly. If it had been stolen from criminals, then I believe the money should go back to those people it was stolen from.

    If someone had stolen from me. And I later found out that it was recovered, but then re-directed to fund some homeless person's rent. To be honest, I'd be pissed off.
  • Jul 5 2012: I don't understand how this would help anyone, or how it would solve anything.

    So you give alot of homeless peoploe some money. Then what. What does that solve? His hunger for a day? So you've got alot of full, satisfied homeless people (for one day), and some filthy rich people who lost a shtload of money that they have worked hard making (and I assume it was hard work since if it was easy, we'd all have millions in the bank).

    Give a man a fish, he eats for a day...
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      Jul 5 2012: Well say it was a select few homeless people and they had enough money then to get a small flat or something, food for a year or so etc etc
      Question I've asked a few other people, would your view change if the money had been stolen from criminals?
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    Jul 4 2012: Your Robin Hood story smacks of the "free lunch" mentality that is invading the US. If I get free health care, food supplements, housing, and 99 weeks of unemployment checks ... why would you want to look for a job. If you become employed your standard of living will drop.

    We are killing the work ethic and robbing the dignity of men. There are no free lunches. The people who work are paying the bills of those who live on the dole.

    The key word is "steal". I see theft at every level. I think the guy who can work and will not is a thief when he accepts all of the benefits. Big government steals from all of us. Banks manipulate us in many ways. Computer theft. Identification theft. Politicians selling their votes.

    Any time the rewards out weigh the consequences we re-enforce the fact that crime pays. In prison the drug dealers always tell me that they were caught before but never sent to jail. They come to prison after about the third time they are caught. They made big money and are set for life. The price is two to maybe five years in jail if that in exchange for millions.

    Robin Hood is a romantic idea based on a crime. If a poor kid beats up a rich kid at school and takes his lunch money and buys five kids cokes is he a hero? Heck no he committed a number of crimes. In the eyes of a socialist the rich kid had to much and did not share it with the poor and so this was okay. Was it ..... really.

    An added thought. What is the costs involved here. Police work ,,,, FBI (federal crime), lost bank hours, accounting hours .... FDIC insurance paid up to XXX amount (tax payers money) .... jail time (tax payers money) .... court costs (taxpayers money) ... bank closed for audits (inconvience to everyone), and many other costs that you the tax payer will foot the bill. Hero ... no a common crook that is into your pocket directly.

    All the best. Bob.
  • Jul 4 2012: Probably not. I do not believe that "two wrongs make a right." I don't really see it moral to allow stealing even if it was from one who stole. Instead, I would suggest that people try to work to get the notorious crooks accused for their crimes. If they caught the drug smuggler, they could arrest him and seize all of his illegal gains. Then they could give it to the poor. That is what I would consider the moral approach.
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    Lejan .

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    Jul 4 2012: Thank you Steward for this interesting question. It's a good one!

    I just assume than in your plot no one got harmed or killed, let's say it's Disney's Robin Hood...

    Yes, those man and/or woman of Robin's gang would own my very sympathy!

    Different from others I agree to your concept that someone rich does not need all of his wealth to make a good living, and, aditionally, that poverty is no state one choose freely to be in.

    Yet if it comes to law, every one should be equal in front of it - NO exeptions.

    By this I would assume, that many of these rich people would not even have been able to gain that much wealth, especially as closer this bank accounts are getting towards Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, or other paradises ...

    Given the fact, that many law students dropping out of law-school as they don't find their believe in justice there, I would assume, that the moral foundation of this deed would not count much in front of the court and in forming the official judgement. But I also assume that the sense of justice of the majority of 'the common people' would be highly cheered, just like mine... :o)

    So if 'people' were allowed to vote on this, the result may be different then.

    Wasn't there just recently this tendency of very rich people, who gave away freely most of their wealth for the good of others? Haven't heard much of it anymore. Anyway, those who may had have this sort of consideration on their minds already, I assume, those would have plead to drop the carges for Robin Hood. I don't really know about the others... :o)

    So, let's go Robin, GO and don't let them get you! :o)
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      Jul 4 2012: I would say you're right that yes they should face the law, only way around that is not to get caught I suppose.
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    Jul 4 2012: Hi Stewart,
    I remember watching the adventures of Robin Hood as a child and I ALWAYS thought that RH was right! Of course, the rich guy was usually portrayed as the bad guy, and the poor, as the good guy.

    As an adult, I realize that those portrayals were not always accurate. There are wealthy people who give generously to help the needy. In the state where I live, for example, there is a group of million/billionaires trying to gift the state a substancial amount of money to reduce the state debt. They have met with the governor, state treasurer, auditor, sec. of state and various legislative bodies, and they are told there is no mechanism in place by which they can simply GIVE money to the state. So far, the effort has been unsuccessful, and they are still trying....no strings attached.

    Theft is theft, and we have laws to protect ALL people from theft. If someone robs a bank, s/he is taking something that does not belong to him/her...that is theft for which, in my perception, it is reasonable for society to ask for accountability/responsibility.

    I do not agree with punishment as it is used and accepted today. I volunteered with the dept. of corrections for years, facilitating various programs based on reparative practices...in particular, a program called "Real Justice". Rather than simply being put behind bars, offenders learn how to be accountable and responsible for the choices they make. With this process, all parties, offenders, victims, courts, correctional staff and volunteers are part of the programs.

    So, no, I do not feel that the charges should be dropped, but rather dealt with differently than we are used to. The Real Justice reparative process, which was started in Australia, has been successful in various parts of our world, and is used in several states in the USA. If we truly want to change our world, we need to change some of the practices which have not worked in the past.
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    Jul 4 2012: This utilitarian approach "for the greater good" has little to do with justice and much to do with fascism...it reminds me of Hugo Chavez, standing in the square in Venezuela, pointing at the richest houses and shouting "expropriated..expropriated." There are better ways of spreading wealth.

    Barclays Bank has just been fined 360 million euros for manipulating the mortgage rate in their favour. That money should be paid directly to the mortgage owners...not to the government. Politicians in Spain earn 4 times the average wage...on top of that, they have seats in different companies...paid to attend meetings and to influence business decisions in Parliament .. On top of that, they steal. These people are morally corrupt and a canker in the heart of our society and government. They should be jailed and have all of their assets taken from them...all their assets. These moneys should be shared with the people in the form of tax cuts etc. Business people who are found to deliberately underpay women, or foreigners or illegal immigrants should be fined and forced to pay back pay with interest to the injured parties. I just don't understand why these fines all go the government and not to the victims.
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    Jul 4 2012: This utilitarian approach "for the greater good" has very little to do with justice and a lot to do with fascism. It reminds me of Hugo Chaves, standing in that square in a Venezuelan town, pointing at the best buildings and shouting "Expropriado...expropriado..." There are better ways of spreading wealth.

    Barclays Bank has just been fined 360 million euros for manipulating the mortgage interest rates. This money should be paid directly to the mortgage owners...not the government. When politicians who earn $50,000 a year own houses worth $10,000,000, they should be investigated...as a matter of course, and if found guilty of theft...all their assets should be seized and returned to the people...not to the government. If my neighbour builds a wall and blocks the light from entering my house, when he is fined, why does that money go to the council? It should go to me, as compensation.
  • Jul 4 2012: This is quite an interesting topic. I don't think there is a "right" answer, but in my opinion, this should not be considered a moral act and the burglars should be tried for their actions. While I think that the burglars had great intentions, but that still does not justify the action. They still stole 100 million pounds. The ends don't justify the means.

    I think a much better action would of been to convince the millionaires to donate some money. If these guys could steal 100 million pounds, Im sure they could convince these guys to donate some. That way it is legal and the people that get stolen from actually have a say in it.

    There is even the factor of who they gave it to. There are lots of charities and lots of people that are in need. The burglars would get to chose who they gave the money to. That is still kinda iffy to me. Would they give to people they know or would it be dispersed to those that need it the most? This is a large factor. How can it be justifiable to allow one to take a millionaire's money and give it to a cause that the millionaire may not even support.

    I could not support these burglars in this scenario. Stealing is still stealing even if it is for a noble cause. The fact that the money is stolen from wealthy is irrelevant.
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      Jul 4 2012: Well let's assume they give it to the best charities they could etc etc

      I'm curious of one point, would you be tempted to change your mind if the £100 million came from the accounts of notorious crooks who say, for an example, conduct human trafficking, drug smuggling and arms dealing?
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        Jul 4 2012: EVEN i would be!
        I say give all the dirt bags' money to the poor but then.......I would be abad guy too, oh well. back to the redistribution board.
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    Jul 4 2012: Where would you place the bounds around vigilante behavior- not just in this case but in general? Who decides on the morality of the situation? Before the fact or after the fact?
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      Jul 4 2012: I'd probably say after the event has happened, only then by a case by case study of the circumstances could anyone come to a reasonable conclusion morally on the events, this also allows for two conclusions to be made on the same thing, which one is right? Well it's a harder question which I've no way of really applying it to this. For example if someone murdered 100 people and someone said they should be let to go free, I would instantly think they were delusional coming to that conclusion but in this case both sides have their points each as valid as their counterpart.
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    Jul 4 2012: "So everyone who holds an account is therefore filthy rich and doesn't need all of it."

    that kind of thinking is so evil and so disgusting. it should be treated in one league with advocating killing, kidnapping, raping or suicide bombing. that is the kind of thinking we punish our kids for. envy is not an acceptable excuse for taking other people's property. by taking property, you partially kill the person. you kill those hours and years of his life that was spent on acquiring said property. no moral code on this globe accepts stealing, no matter how many lame excuses it is garnished with.
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      Jul 4 2012: it isn't really an envious statement, there are people in the world who could buy 10 of everything they wanted and still lots left over, to say they don't need all of it can be a truthful statement, it's why people like Bill Gates give billions to charity. You also make the assumption that everyone who is rich deserves the money they have.
      What if they got Paris Hilton's account or the account of some high end crime syndicate?
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        Jul 4 2012: and which moral teaches you that you can decide whether someone needs something, and if you decide that they don't need it, you can take it? it is their stuff, they decide if they want it or not. how do you like the idea that prostitutes can be raped (since they don't mind), depressed people can be killed, people living in pain can be beaten up, and so on? this is horrible! wake up!

        i did not say that everyone who has, deserves. there are unlawful and immoral ways to get rich. the problem here is unlawful and immoral, which should be corrected. it does not matter whether the first or the thousandth or the millionth dollar is stolen. a stolen dollar is a stolen dollar, and we should attempt to stop that, and we should disdain anyone that steals, no matter if he is rich or not. and we also should disdain those that advocate stealing, or hire/appoint thieves to steal for them.
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          Jul 4 2012: Fair views, can't argue anything as it's mere difference of opinions
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        Jul 4 2012: yeah, some people opt for stealing, others don't. a matter of taste.
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    Jul 4 2012: Morality changes from group to group as by definition morality is conduct that is agreed to be acceptable or not acceptable by that group. If you ask a group of socialists I think the answer would be yes drop the charges. If you ask a group of capitalists then they would probably say no.

    But is it ethical? Ethics by definition in most dictionaries will say morality. Are morality and ethics the same?

    Ayn Rand says no that ethics are what furthers the survival of the individual.

    Does giving money to someone who has not earned it help them?

    Lets look at this from an empirical perspective.

    Most people who go on unemployment (that was recently extended to 99 weeks) miraculously find a job in the last few weeks of unemployment, point is that people become dependent on goverment for their survival in other words the government trains them to not produce and not exchange. Is this ethical?

    In Germany they train their people to produce and exchange. The estimated value of German exports in 2011 was $1.41 trillion; U.S. exports in the same period were $1.51 trillion. However, Germany exports virtually no raw materials and accomplished this export with a workforce of 43.6 million workers. The U.S. workforce is 154.4 million. Is that ethical?

    My point is that what you are proposing is unethical.
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      Jul 4 2012: Hello Pat,

      as for your 'German example' I like to say, that many German people are paying a very high price for it.
      Family structures are falling apart, the numbers of 'outburn' syndroms are exploding, the level of personal fulfilment is dropping rapidly, wage dumping is spreading, the number of full time jobs which doesn't cover the basic needs for living increase every year.

      Germany has 'streamlined' its economy that dramatically, that it doesn't only effects the worker here, as it endangers even the stability within the european union by setting this exorbitant standards of efficiency.

      If things have not changed since 2000, when I was in the US, your comparison in productivity was also be based on the differences in vacation days. In Germany the average is 30 days, not related to age, and my last knowledge about the US was 10 days in average.

      I have seen many committed colleagues of mine, even friends, suffering the 'outburn' syndrom due to this tremendous and constantly increasind workload. And when I was next in this row, it just blew me off my feet. I was working as a technical manager at a large German steel company, which decided in 2008 to force 30% of all workers into early retirement (for savings). 30%!! A drop in performance was, of course, not allowed, so you may make up your own fantasy. Three years later I was literally 'done' and left the company due to this situation in 2012. My physical and mental health is more to me than the increase in shareholder value of others.

      This way, which I consider turbo-capitalism, is not ethical to me. Once, Germany used to have a high ethical standard withn business, yet this time has gone with the wind of global markets...
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        Jul 4 2012: Hello Jan-Brnard

        Your story is anecdotal. I have not been for many years but back then the Germans did not seem unhappy?

        You say that the U.S. gets an average of 10 days vacation and the Germans 30 that seems pretty good to me?

        Contrary to you belief morale (not morals) is based in production, what you are saying does not ring true to me.