Is Theft Wrong?
University College Dublin
October 21, 2012
Most people think that the actual distribution of property poorly reflects moral entitlement. Were wealth to be justly distributed, some people would have more than they currently possess; others, less. Theft is one means by which a more just distribution could be pursued. Those who currently have less than their due could take from those that have more. Yet most people also think that theft is wrong, even when it redistributes wealth in the direction of justice. This article investigates why. It examines three arguments against redistributive theft: that (1) it is illegal, (2) disruptive of legitimate expectations and (3) undemocratic. All three arguments are shown to fail. The conclusion the article reaches is a surprising one. Theft is not always wrong. In fact it seems to be justified whenever it is an effective, proportionate and necessary means to pursue distributive justice.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: Theft, Distributive Justice, Egalitarianism, Property Rightsworking papers series
Date posted: October 21, 2012 ; Last revised: December 20, 2012
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