In Defense of Specialized Theft Statutes
26 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 17, 2013
This essay is an invited contribution to a symposium hosted by the New England Law Review in celebration of Stuart Green’s important book 13 Ways to Steal a Bicycle. As we note, Professor Green’s argument is so reasonable and executed in such elegant prose, there is little call for anything other than praise. Nevertheless, in the spirit of academic exchange, we challenge Professor Green’s skepticism of specialized theft statutes. Relying on retributivist theories of criminal punishment, we argue that specialized theft statutes have an important role to play in contemporary criminal law by educating the public about the necessary commitments that must be maintained in order to facilitate emerging fields of art, technology, and commerce and by guarding the boundaries of those enterprises. In the process, we propose an “enterprise theory” of theft that justifies criminal prohibition as a tool to defend vulnerable social enterprises ranging from retail sales to copyright.
Keywords: Theft; Criminal Theory
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