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The Contender
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Stealing for survival must not be punished.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2016 Category: Society
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 605 times Debate No: 97705
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
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Stealing for survival must not be punished. The person does it because he/she has no other option. If , say, women in a war zone steals the bread because there is nothing else to eat then that is not a crime. Such woman can not be said to be a thief.


I see your point, but that solution is fundamentally wrong. Most societies today are founded on the ability to achieve your goals, if you"re willing to work for it. That"s a mental drive for students all over the world to keep learning.
Besides the moral wrongness, it would not work, there would be a massive grey zone, seen from a legal point of view. Where would the line be drawn? You would need to economically define "poor" and make strict limitations to whom it would be accepted to steal from.
Promoting being poor is not right either, instead we should try to prevent poorness in all.
Debate Round No. 1


It is true that in some societies you can get money for your job. But it is also true that there are societies where even though you are willing to work you cannot get job or this job is humiliating.

In Zimbabwe unemployment rate is 95%!!!!! That basically means that you cannot get job no matter how willing to work you are. Girls as young as 12-years-old go for sex work due to poverty. Saying that they should not steal food you would mean that they have to trade their bodies to get food.

As to students" yes "they are willing to work for it". Unfortunately, many people do not become students because they die of starvation being minor.

There is a difference between being poor person and being a person who does something for physical survival. Judicial system has many ways to tell the difference. And once person is identified as the one who stole something for survival then he/she should be set aside a penalty. It is a self-defense! And we do not punish people for self-defense.

Another point is that if this happens (stealing for survival becomes no crime) then rich people would care not only about themselves. They would pay more attention to the needs of those who are in desperate conditions. Because otherwise they might lose their wealth and being not able to punish thieves.


First of all, the 95% figure is very unreliable, and most likely inaccurate. (read source below) But obviously
there is a lot of countries with extremely ineffective systems and few available jobs, but I would argue that
in those places, especially, it would be a disaster if everyone stole from each other. Many poor countries
have close to no middle class, to steal from, and they can't just steal from the rich, so they will have to still
from other poor, which is an evil circle.


Stealing to survive is not self-defense, unless perhaps the victim is the direct cause of your starvation,
which is unlikely. Self-defense is defined as a defense, countering an assailant. Not an attack based on

I strongly disagree on your prediction regarding rich people caring less about themselves and more about
the poor, due to your proposition. I believe it would divide the economic classes even more, and the poor
would be looked down upon, as pests, raiding the rich. The rich wouldn'tjust let the poor steal their things
either, whilst your proposition makes it unpunishable, you can"t take away the rich's right to defend
themselves and their belongings.
Debate Round No. 2


I am not saying that poor people should be exempt from liability for theft. I am saying that only people who are way below the poverty level, people who has no other options but steal for survival, should be pardoned. Self-defence in the doctrine of at least English law means that person can act outside the law to prevent injury to oneself. Is not death by starvation even worse than just injury? Why we need to punish person who has chosen to steal and survive rather than die?

You are right saying that rich people would not let the extremely poor people to steal their things. Rich people would have to act. They would not be able to penalize extremely poor people in court. Rich would have to press government, to form governmental and nongovernmental organizations to take measures that would not let people to fall in desperate economic state. This understanding that your wealth depends on whether there are or not extremely poor people in your country is a very strong motivation for rich people to get rid of extreme poverty in their country.

You are right saying that rich people may view poor people as "pests, raiding the rich". Better if they have this view and act to prevent poor from becoming extremely poor than not noticing them at all, as it is nowadays.

In every country, there are very rich people and at least some layer of middle class. I do not know any MP or governor who is very poor. Not only are these people wealthy but they have power. Often, they do not use this power to improve the economic situation in their countries for their citizens. They only would act when they feel they could personally suffer from it.

May be in the beginning we will have cases when extremely poor people (with no other options) would steal from poor people. But rich people will interfere very soon. They would have no other option but to take measures to bring people from extreme poverty at least to the level of poverty. It still would not be good but it would surely be better then what we have now.


I don"t believe the rich would in any way be forced to help the poor. Instead, they would just massively increase their security. If we"re talking about "extremely poor" people, on the edge of starvation, I doubt they have the slightest chance of even climbing their fences. If it went to extremes, there would be bloodbaths, armed security guards against starving citizens, they don"t stand a chance.

Besides, we"re not just talking about raising taxes for the rich and spend that money on the poor. We"re talking about people being legally allowed to intrude another human being"s residence, and just take whatever they wanted to take, possibly items of personal value? Then what, the rich would have to buy a new TV every second day? And keep anything with a personal value in a hidden bunker?

While I agree that a lot of state officials waste too much money, allowing people to raid their home won"t help. It will just make their everyday work more difficult, and they would likely grow a hate towards the poor.
Think about this on a long-term, the poor families would then raise their children as thieves, and eliminate any potential educational future.
Debate Round No. 3


Surely sooner or later rich would get tired to buy a new TV set or other things every second day. And no matter how rich you are you cannot live all your life in a bunker. You go outside, your family members go outside, you meet people elsewhere in the city. So, new rule will make life of rich very uncomfortable in the country where there are extremely poor people. It would be uncomfortable to the extend where rich would have to act to eliminate extreme poverty. They would see a threat in every poor man, they would expect theft at every moment they are outside their fortress, they would leave all their luxurious things at home and ride donkey rather than drive Porsche. Who wants such life? Not rich, for sure. For them the best way to avoid that would be to ensure that there is no extreme poverty in their homeland.

You say it can lead to "bloodbaths, armed security guards against starving citizens". But lots of people are dying now. And death from starvation according to many is the worst death ever. Worse than dying from bullet. These people are dying slowly, painfully, forgotten by the world. They are not being killed by armed security guards of rich people. But they are still killed by rich. By rich that benefits from natural resources of the country but does not share it with other citizens. So, rich will have two choices: to be paranoid and surrounded by army of bodyguards or to change things in the environment. And the second option would be at lower cost for rich.

I do not think that poor families would raise their children as thieves. No parents want their child to be thief or be illiterate. Normal parents want child to enjoy life, to be a decent person.

To be immune from penalty for theft it is not enough to be poor".poor people are in every society. This exception is supposed to cover only people who do not have any chance to earn money for basic food legally.

If rich eliminates the extreme poverty in the country, then no one is immune from penalty for theft. This is what the rich should know. And when they know it they will work for it!


The rich certainly would not let the poor intimidate them in this way. Just like the police will avoid to negotiate with kidnappers or terrorists, because it shows weakness, and raises the chance for such a thing to happen again, as it has worked before. The rich would much more likely flee those cities with extreme poverty, which would literally doom those cities even further.

Also, you make it sound like such an arrangement is just temporarily, until they get back on their feet, but why would they ever? Stealing a TV will all of a sudden create jobs for your entire family? No, instead you will create a nasty habit of being dependent on theft as an income.

I think you overate the goodness and innocence of the extremely poor. In many countries with a lot of poverty, poor families break their young childrens" legs, just so that they can beg themselves to more money. Why would they not keep stealing and teach their children to do the same? And if they couldn"t get an education before the arrangement, they wouldn"t be able to after either, because the arrangement would only cover them as long as they were starving, it will not enrich them and give them more options in life.

Even if this plan worked out, which it would not, it would be morally wrong in so many ways. There is a huge distinction between making the right choice and making a choice that would work. For example, allowing average people to legally kill all animal hunters would probably save rare animals from being extinct too, yet it is a dangerous, uncivilized and immoral way of solving the problem. Especially when there are other solutions! Just as there is in this case.

Obviously extreme poverty is a terrible thing, but there is a reason why such things does not exist in Europe, and that is because our society, justice system, government and economy works. That is the reason why there is jobs for almost everyone. Not because some golden hand reached out to the poor and gave them some money, because that won"t help on a long-term basis. Therefore, what the world needs to do, and the rich within that country, is to help financing job creating activities, and create a society which then will finance itself.

Short conclusion
There is other much more humane, civilized, moral and right solutions to this terrible problem, than this one. Even so, the proposition would not actually work, as it is a too short-term vision.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by vi_spex 1 year ago
free food
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