I'm working on differentiating primarily nonhuman cultures from human cultures in a fantasy world by adding a bit of Blue and Orange Morality. One way I'm considering adding a unique element to one cluster of them where stealing is considered acceptable and clever – where swindles are laudable and (nonviolent) burglaries are something to brag about, and theft is just another way to make money (because really, in their view, the exchange of currency is just an elaborate ritual for two people to think they're stealing from each other).

I have two questions. One may be too broad, one is much more specific.

  1. Why is stealing immoral?

Why, as a species, did humans decide to make theft "wrong"? Is it an attachment to property, something to do with impressing others with possessions, a desire for trust or security?

  1. Could a culture that considers theft something neutral, even laudable if done in a particularly impressive manner, sustain itself?

Or is there something fundamental here that would be thrown out of balance if theft was more commonplace?

EDIT: Another way to phrase this might be – Could an entire society and culture develop a Robin Hood-esque attitude toward others' property? (There's a little more variation than that, but that's the way my hypothetical thieves' institution is currently visualized to operate).

EDIT 2: Probably should have mentioned the limitations I had on this to begin with. It's an honor based society. It's dishonorable to steal something essential – like a diabetic person's insulin, for instance, or a poor person's only source of food – not because it's stealing, but because it equates to killing. Generally, the theft that bolsters your status (if you tell your friends about it) is the theft of someone's surplus. And a thief caught in the act of stealing – though not awhile afterwards – will generally hand over whatever they tried to take, or might start bargaining for it... stealing from someone of greater status than you and then being caught may result in demands from the almost-victim. Those are the specifics, though, I'm still very happy with all of the answers about theft in general.

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    This reminds me a little of Terry Pratchett's "thieves guild" in his Discworld series. It's not really a society based on thieving or on lauding thieving, per se. But it is basically a government sanctioned thieving protection racket where thieves have quotas, etcetc. You pay to make sure you only get robbed of so much. And people in the city with the thieves guild basically just accept robberies as a part of life. – MiraAstar Nov 15 '15 at 18:49
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    If a theft is revealed (i.e. someone stole your lunch, then sits down next to you to eat it), is that still acceptable, or does the theft have to remain unproven to be acceptable? – Cyrus Nov 15 '15 at 19:05
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    If it can be deemed laudable to commit burglaries of those outside of the group, you can study real life cultures that have these rules. The gypsies and the gangs are typically proud of how they interact with the outside world. – Cort Ammon Nov 15 '15 at 19:50
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    Do we include cases of tribal societies (or current groups which live in a tribe-like manner, as commented by Cort Ammon) where stealing is a crime only if you steal from a fellow tribe member, but is OK if you steal from a different tribe, or the "enemy"? Or must the theft be tolerated even within the group? – vsz Nov 16 '15 at 4:43
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    A minor thing to note for your honor bound system - it could be assumed, by the person who is being stolen from, that the thief needs the item much more than them. They may pretend not to notice the stealing. This is building off your "stealing is bad because it's actually murder". If a desperate, starving street urchin steals my bread, I may be honor-bound to let them steal it (and pretend not to notice), or else I may as well have murdered them. – DoubleDouble Nov 16 '15 at 18:09

27 Answers 27

up vote 45 down vote accepted

Could a culture that considers theft something neutral, even laudable if done in a particularly impressive manner, sustain itself?

Sure. There were a number of Native American tribes in the plains area that made stealing a rite of passage. This included kidnapping their wives from other tribes, which helped avoid inbreeding. Stealing was considered both more honorable and more impressive than killing their enemies. This helped avoid retribution turning into extinction. These societies were stable until outsiders (Europeans) disrupted them.

Example source: http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.war.023

Why is stealing immoral?

Because it is more efficient for it to be immoral than for it to require guarding against. Consider how our society would be different if you had to guard against not just rare stealing but common. You'd have to keep most of your valuables with you. It would be difficult for a company to make improvements -- other companies would just steal them. They'd have to have far more than just a single night guard watching some television screens.

All this would create a drag on the economy. It would be more difficult to innovate, as the benefits from innovation would be less. It would be hard to make a technological society this way. Society would probably be more like that of the plains tribes.

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    How would you even hire guards that won't steal the assets they are supposed to be guarding? – user2813274 Nov 15 '15 at 21:35
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    @user2813274 It's an honor society (think Klingons, these guys are my version of orcs) where theft isn't inherently dishonorable, and can sometimes be honorable. If someone gives their word that they will not steal your stuff, they'd better not steal your stuff, or else they will be snubbed or worse by everyone who knows they gave their word. – Midwinter Sun Nov 15 '15 at 22:49
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    But the rich would prosper by paying people for their word, there would be unions you weren't allowed to steel from, so poor, incapable people would have any property ravished. Nobody would work, and those who did would be robbed. I don't think it is possible without it being a horrendous place to live. There are no punishments for attempting to steal. Nothing to lose. – n00dles Nov 16 '15 at 2:24
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    @MidwinterSun Giving your word that you won't steal is basically what we do in our society. And snubbed or worse is exactly what happens. Snubbed if you can't prove it, jailed if you can. – corsiKa Nov 16 '15 at 20:43
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    @corsiKa: I assume the difference here is, our "social contract" extracts a pledge (willing or no) from everyone not to steal from anyone. Whereas these orcish types probably only make that pledge on a case by case basis, and when they encounter a stranger they don't hold them to have already pledged anything. Perhaps not stealing from someone has the same kinds of conventions as not passing on information is treated in our society: it's a common thing to ask someone for confidentiality, but if you don't ask you're "on the record". – Steve Jessop Nov 17 '15 at 2:14

Others have mentioned why stealing is wrong, and I will let their answers stand for that.

As to your other question:

Could a culture that considers theft something neutral, even laudable if done in a particularly impressive manner, sustain itself?

The answer is yes, but with restrictions.

  • To have a society, things like food and water, should be considered off limits (assuming you don't want to just make the society post scarcity for the basics).
  • Your people need to have a radically different view of property than we do - this society likely would not understand the concept of an heirloom or sentimental value towards items.

Another possibility (to being post food scarcity) is to have victimhood be just as admirable as the theft itself - if a thief steals all your food in the night while you sleep, others will practically trip over themselves to ensure you have enough (think warrior societies where death by fighting is as honorable as killing). In this way, the theft has no real impact on you and thus is not inherently negative. One interesting possibly extension to this is that people would view giving items to other as a sort of "banking" - if I give you my axe I know where it is so if I need to chop some firewood, I just steal it back.

Another possibility is, if caught in action, the thief would immediately and unquestioningly surrender the items stolen without fuss and leave. In our world when we catch someone stealing we expect a fight to retrieve the item, which causes adrenaline spikes, but without the fear of fighting we would be less likely to get frightened and angry. Instead you might simple have thief and victim enter into a "bargaining" mode, where the thief is now "purchasing" the stolen item if the victim is willing to part with it or trade for it.

I could also see this working if you loosen the "theft has to not be revealed" aspect in your comments. If the theft only has to not be caught or the thief only has to remain unknown for a short period of time (say a few hours or a day), then another possibility is that once the time has elapsed the thief will generally let the victim know, allowing the victim the ability to get something in return (of course by stealing) - either the original item, or an item more needed/desired - in this way I would steal items considered valuable that I don't want from others so that another might steal from me and I can get something I do want.

E.g. I personally don't care for TV, so I would steal the biggest TV I could find in the hopes that a friend who has a book I want steals my TV allowing me to steal their book.

This makes the theft a kind of elaborate economic system, where instead of broadcasting what I want in the hopes of someone offering to trade for something I have it, I broadcast what I have in the hopes of someone "offering" something I want. Related, perhaps it is not honorable to steal from someone unknown to you - only from someone known, or it is dishonorable to steal from someone who has not stolen from your family, or you only steal once from someone until they steal from you.

Depending on how loosely you want to define property and theft, it is possible this society simply has an extremely communal view of property. That is there is a community axe that I just so happen to have in my garage, but if you need it you just take it. The culture would just have a game to see who could procure the item the wanted in the most elaborate or subtle way. To our culture it would look, on the surface, as if they were stealing from each other (it would help if the other cultures way of representing currently having a particular community item was expressed as a possessive). Most items would have to be community items, so I make a salad bowl or a chair and it is not mine but the communities - in this way the way of distributing goods would be through the "theft". One interesting possible side effect in this community would be that actually asking someone for something would be either vulgar or at least an extreme sign of distress.

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    A lot more than "food and water" is "basic" to survival. There's a reason horse thieves were hung in the old West; if you stole a man's horse, you were stealing one of his most important tools for survival. Steal a farmer's plow and his draft animals, or his seed corn, and there might not be any food next harvest. Steal anyone's tools, and you're hurting their chance to survive. – Monty Harder Nov 16 '15 at 21:00
  • @MontyHarder You raise an interesting point, and I agree to an extent, but you assume that the culture needs tools to procure food. In places where the climate is temperate, it is possible for humans to thrive with food procured with only the most basic of tools that are readily replaceable (rocks and sharp sticks). The question, however, specifically mentions "non-human", which means this culture could be herbivores, or have claws that replace the need for tools, or could even have the capacity to photosynthesize. – Emerson Nov 17 '15 at 8:57
  • @Emerson: That's a good point. In our history, complex law codes (with typically harsh punishments for stealing) seem to have emerged around the same time as when agriculture took off. Now, that may be a bit of a coincidence (e.g. cities and writing appeared around the same time), but I don't think it's a complete coincidence. A nomadic hunter-gatherer doesn't really need much to make a living, nor can they carry much property around, and what they have would be hard to steal (except by force). Farmers, however, are much more tempting targets for theft, and much more vulnerable to it. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 17 '15 at 17:55

As civilization grows, people collect tools and other property. During productive periods they save a surplus to current needs to last the next day, over the winter, for their old age.

A culture where stealing is allowed requires people to be eternally vigilant to protect their surplus. The more they have, the less they can produce and the more time they have to spend standing guard. That makes many benefits of civilization impossible.

Civilization requires specialization, specialization requires trade, trade requires (property) laws.

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    There have been societies that existed amid plenty who did not have much of a concept of ownership. Usually tropical nations. – Shamshiel Nov 15 '15 at 22:28
  • I think the link to trade is valid, but I am not so sure of specialization requiring trade. People do have social structures without requiring physical property to mark them. And for protection of surplus a stricture against waste is sufficient and more efficient than forbidding theft. – Ville Niemi Nov 15 '15 at 22:43
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    @Shamshiel, community property is different from accepted theft. We have a jar of cookies at work. Everybody takes some, everybody refills it now and then, nobody keeps an accurate count, but there is an understanding that you take as much as you give. – o.m. Nov 16 '15 at 6:28
  • Wouldn't "take as much as you get taken, modified by your relative skill" be exactly how a society of "accepted theft" would be? It would basically be a vastly more complex version of your cookie jar? Not criticism btw, just found the possible similarity your comment suggested interesting enough to comment. The concept is so far from our experience, your cookie jar might actually be the best model to start with. – Ville Niemi Nov 16 '15 at 18:27
  • @VilleNiemi, community property models are generally open about it. "You don't need that clothesline right now, I do, so gimme." Theft is covert. – o.m. Nov 17 '15 at 6:27

I cannot resist quoting The Blue Cross by G K Chesterton. Published in 1910, this was the first of the Father Brown detective stories:

'Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a notice-board, `Thou shalt not steal.''

Turning to Midwinter Sun's questions:

1. Why, as a species, did humans decide to make theft "wrong"?

Certainly not out of a mere emotional "attachment to property", still less a wish to impress others. Those types of feeling only arise among unusually fortunate people whose basic needs have already been met. Most people before our modern era of affluence were poor subsistence farmers. Among those who live close to starvation, security of property is a matter of survival. If they cease to believe that the crops they grow or the flocks they tend will bring any benefit to them, they will plant no more crops and tend no more flocks and turn to predation on other tribes. Thus civilizations fall, or never arise in the first place. You get what Hobbes described as "the war of all against all"

Not that there is anything impossible or unlikely about barbarism. Many human cultures have condoned and applauded stealing so long as the victims are deemed to be outside the protected group. The outsiders from whom stealing is permitted could be physical outsiders - for instance cattle-raiding from enemy tribes is praised in many warrior-pastoral societies, or they could be a persecuted group who live within the physical boundaries of the thieves' society but are not properly protected by its laws, like the Helots in ancient Sparta.

2. Could a culture that considers theft something neutral, even laudable if done in a particularly impressive manner, sustain itself?

Yes, so long as there remains an adequate supply of outsiders not following these principles whose surpluses the theft-admiring society could steal.

  • I don't think it contradicts my answer above to add that rich societies can get away with permitting minor or occasional theft. These societies are rich because their general prohibition of theft has resulted in large surpluses. In one of Larry Niven's short stories set on a crowded future Earth it is mentioned that the police have given up on trying to stop pickpockets. Some might say that in certain present day cities the police are following the same rule! But you can bet that laws against substantial theft are still enforced. – Lostinfrance Nov 15 '15 at 22:17
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    I speculate also that stealing within the group could be tolerated as a form of pranking or trophy-taking, provided that there's a "sensible" limit on what's allowed to be stolen. So for example you could have a group who constantly steal each other's jewellery, but taking someone's shoes is dishonorable at least in-group, if you've left them unable to walk distances. People might still put effort and resources into making and buying jewellery, but understand that by doing so they're entering a contest of trying to stop their neighbours stealing it. – Steve Jessop Nov 17 '15 at 2:28
  • ... however this still doesn't go so far as the questioner stipulates, that stealing is typically not considered bad. It only potentially works because jewellery by definition isn't essential, it's a status item and part of the status could be that by wearing it you prove you can defend it. – Steve Jessop Nov 17 '15 at 2:33

Stealing is immoral because of our evolution as a species. When a pack of hunters brings back a large prey, should they share it with the lazy ones which refused to hunt? If yes, soon there would be no one willing to risk their lives to hunt. And all would perish.

Our civilization is based on this concept of property.

But could it be different? Perhaps. Maybe if you don't have scarce resources from the beginning.

You should also look at kenders from Dragonlance. "Kender are described as not believing that there is anything morally wrong with handling others' items" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kender).

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    Um, in hunter gatherer societies, hunters almost always shared their food with the entire group (all of whom were relatives, by the way). Of course, they would get first dibs. And, while they might occasionally perish, it wasn't ever because they decided to not hunt. – user11599 Nov 16 '15 at 8:44
  • Still they might have been pissed off if someone took the "lucky" spear or something. – Ghanima Nov 16 '15 at 9:55
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    A french philosopher, Joseph Proudhon, has written a very famous sentence : "Property is Theft". Check out this wikipedia link : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_is_theft! – Kii Nov 17 '15 at 12:14

One of the most interesting and under-utilized things I've ever read is in Harry Potter.

J.K. Rowling touched upon Goblin's understanding of ownership, in which the Goblin who creates something is the true owner, and if someone buys an item from a Goblin, when they die the ownership of that item reverts to the creator, as opposed to an heir who inherits all of the items they own.

This could be the basis for this society, in which the creator of an object would be understood as its true owner, and customers simply buy their items for a set number of years (or life), after which the item's ownership reverts back to the maker.

In a society that holds this concept of ownership, people who hang onto items left by deceased parents/relatives would be considered the immoral ones, and tradesmen etc. would need to go and retrieve this property, hence where the stealing would come into use.

Also, if people were to steal from others, technically nothing has been stolen as the person who owns the item has not changed, it is now just a different person using it. They were just careless enough to let it out of their possession.

This would not count for food etc. (as that can only be used by one person), which would work for the requirement of people not being able to steal food from others.

Having a society like this though would need many other considerations, as it is so much different to our own concept of ownership. This could include renting anything (from homes to common items) becomes the norm as opposed to buying things. Buying would simply be renting for a given amount of time for a one-time sum.

Security would become much more important, due to the fact people can't have things stolen from them, but people would still want to retain ownership.

Trading items would be much more common, as currency would hold much less value when nothing ever really 'belongs' to you. In order to transfer true ownership, this would need to be done via 'gifting'.

Every craftsman would need their own identifiable insignia, in order to prove an item is theirs. The item would also need an 'ownership until' date inscribed onto it (as the paperwork would get out of hand), which would essentially work as an ownership record so one could see how long the item has been in service.

People would generally attempt to make very high quality goods in lower quantities, as they would not want to be left with lots of cheap stuff they could not sell, that when they managed to get rid of would eventually be handed back to them further down the road. This would mean that apprenticing, particularly to the top craftsmen, would be highly sought after.

People would only go into business with each other with people that they trust completely, as they would then have joint true ownership of the things that they create.

An entire industry of bailiffs, which would be essentially highly skilled thieves for hire, would be available for the richer/better item creators to hire to retrieve their goods. This would be because of the legal grey area that exists in the space between someone dying and their belongings being returned to the true owners.

There are probably many more considerations for a society such as this (such as how consumable goods or services are traded), but thieves would be heralded as heroes and would be regarded as we regard police/doctors as the honorable people of society.

  • While it's not upon death, US song copyright law works a bit like this; even if the creator sold all rights to someone else, they can always get them back after 35 years, under the so called (and unalienable) "termination rights". – André Paramés Dec 13 '17 at 23:05

One, potential, reason for anything to be considered immoral by us is that if we don't do them (generally) we can't trust each other. If I can trust that you don't steal my stuff, I have an easier time guarding it (as in, I don't have to) and we're also a lot less likely to try to kill or just avoid one another. If we don't kill each other and don't mind being around each other, we might start to engage in trade or just bond and make families; if we don't trust each other the least, we won't do any of those things. Mixing fear for ones life in it, won't make things better. Exactly why we consider certain actions to be immoral is hard to guess, but I think this theory makes sense.

Any society where stealing is acceptable or even laudable would be unlikely to consider it stealing; as Chaotic suggests, have a look at the Kender from Dragonlance.

We do have something that might look a bit like what you're asking for, but only a bit. Societies based on socialism or similar concepts generally distribute goods to the population based on needs (in some fashion). Such a society might be considered a "Robin Hood"-society as it "steals from the rich" and "gives to the poor". Of course, these aren't the acts of individuals.

You might consider how stealing is considered based on circumstances; in some countries it's perfectly legal to steal if you must do so in order to survive.

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    Anyone who mentioned Kender got my upvote today (Time limit has expired). Kender wouldn't ever be offended if someone took their favorite item, they may even simply say, "Wow! I used to have a statue that looked just like that." And while admiring their friend's new possession, accidentally slip it into their backpack. Kender are awesome. – IchabodE Nov 17 '15 at 19:24

Morality is a sticky wicket. Everyone has their own opinion on it, and believe it or not, not everyone agrees. Accordingly, I am going to choose utilitarianism as my moral code for this answer. It has the advantage of being treated as the lowest common denominator by many types of moral codes, so at least everyone should relate somewhat.

By utilitarianism, stealing is wrong because it generates an inefficiency. You have to spend more time guarding your stuff. However, for this to work, one has to be part of a culture which is hurt by your actions. By naive utilitarianism, your stealing from others is good, but their stealing from you is bad. Typically utilitarians have to have some concept of a community to come to a consensus that stealing is bad in general.

The easy way to work around this is to steal from outside the community. If they're outsiders, who cares if they're hurt. It benefited you, and that's good enough! The stereotypical gypsies are the classic example of this. In the sterotype, its encouraged to separate others from their money, but only outsiders. Theft of property within the group is forbidden.

Another approach is to make the act of stealing more beneficial than the loss of goods. This has the neat effect of allowing any form of stealing, not just stealing from outsiders. One might make a community of criminals where the continued rate of theft between members "keeps everyone on their toes," so that when an outsider comes through, they're on top of their game. Everyone's houses are tested by the toughest of criminals. There may even be honor amongst thieves, in that you may choose not to hit someone when they're down, because there's no sport in the theft.

Another approach is to simply get rid of the concept of personal property all together. Taking that approach, there is no concept of stealing, because nobody owns it. One case I can think of is the religion set up by Mike Smith in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, where the handling of the collections plate was a bit unorthodox.

As a final solution, if people only value things which cannot be taken from them, there is no reason to worry about theft:

Take my love.
Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care,
I'm still free.
You can't take the sky from me.

  • +1 for the Firefly reference (and the useful information). – Midwinter Sun Nov 16 '15 at 3:39
  • 'One might make a community of criminals where the continued rate of theft between members "keeps everyone on their toes," so that when an outsider comes through, they're on top of their game.' An example of this from history: in ancient Sparta young men where taken away from their families at a young age and raised communally in harsh conditions in order to make them into warriors. Part of their training was to feed them so little that they would have to steal to survive. This was one of the few exceptions to the general rule that stealing from within your own group is prohibited. – Lostinfrance Nov 16 '15 at 7:33
  • "As I went walking I saw a sign there // And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." // But on the other side it didn't say nothing, // That side was made for you and me." -- Woodie Guthrie – Steve Jessop Nov 17 '15 at 2:45

When you steal, you are harming someone for you own interest. As long as from the point of view of the society there is no reason to consider your interest more valuable than the one of person you are robbing, stealing will be considered immoral.

For example, the thefts or Robin Hood are widely considered morally acceptable, because he stole the rich (causing them minimum harm) to give to the poor (greatly helping them). From the point of view of the society, there is a net gain in the process.

But you do not even need a net gain to make the situation morally acceptable. For example, in the film Now you see me, magicians rob banks without harming anyone. It does not harm anyone and since it is very cleverly done nobody (except the police) object.

So, the occidental society seems to meet your criteria. Theft is "neutral" since its moral judgement depends on the context, and if it is cleverly done (no killing, small harming) it can be considered laudable.

From there it is easy to build a society accepting theft, even in an institutionalized way. For example, everybody could just keep some traditional object, with no practical use, just to prove everybody that nobody can rob him, and everybody will try to steal everybody (but only that particular useless object).

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    Perhaps not such a good example. In the movie "Heat", the robbers tell the frightened customers that their money is insured and they "won't lose a dime", but even so, they come into the bank with automatic weapons and end up in a deadly shootout with police. They do openly what the magicians in the other movie are doing one step removed: using force to take property from others. – Thucydides Nov 15 '15 at 22:00

Left anarchists do not believe stealing is wrong. They are OK with stealing everything except personal property like toothbrushes. I believe it is possible to work in a small community when everyone agrees to live like that, but will fail in a larger community because it neglects to take into account the basic human emotion of greed. It also neglects to account for sociopaths.

I believe egoists have a form of morality that you are talking about. Rick Sanchez is an egoist. The Kromulans also seem to have a 'blue/orange' alien morality.

Gypsy/Roma law permits stealing from outsiders.

Swindling or stealing from a fellow gypsy is an offense to be dealt with, swindling or stealing from a non-gypsy comes under gypsy law only to the extent that it creates problems for other gysies.

Why is stealing wrong? Because when you steal, you are taking away the labor and time of someone else. Each stolen object can be followed back to the time or money spent to purchase or make it. A lack of well-defined property rights reduces the prosperity of an entire civilization.

For the purposes of this answer, I'm going to call it "stealing" when an individual or small group uses force or stealth or trickery to take possession of of something against the will of the person who rightly possesses it. However, this is not necessarily a faithful translation of the Orcs' language, because you'd expect the morality/lawfulness of an act to be considered important enough to be reflected in the language used to describe it. They'd quite possibly have different words for stealing they consider moral and stealing they consider immoral.

Stealing is immoral amongst humans because we consider property rights to be important. Where society and/or the state regulates property, with the general assent of members of that society, then it is widely considered immoral to run counter to that regulation and redistribute property to yourself. "Stealing" is an offence against the widely-held belief that property rights are needed, against the authority of the state to administer those rights, and against the authority of individuals over their property.

Taxation is an interesting example, when thinking how different cultures might treat property differently, because those who disagree with it do consider it a form of theft. Those who consider taxation to be just, do so on the basis that the believe the right of the state to tax has sufficient foundation to override property rights, despite the disagreement of those who say the state cannot have rights that override individual rights. So a Libertarian views our culture as one in which a particular form of theft is considered right. But it's not what I'm calling "stealing" here, solely in that it's perpetrated by the near-consensus of society as a whole, not just by some individual who fancies a new TV.

I'm not a Libertarian, and I don't consider property to be absolutely fundamental. However, it is clearly rather important to the way our society is constructed, and also to historical societies going back thousands of years. So it's no small change to have everyone running around trying to take stuff from each other all the time. For society to support this, you'd need something like:

  • No concept of "ownership", only of "possession". So this is the stick I'm holding. If you took it then it would be the stick you're holding. I have no idea whether I'll be holding a stick or not by tomorrow.
  • Ownership is somewhat acknowledged, but the responsibility of society as a whole to actively support it is not. This is my stick, and it's nobody's business but mine to ensure that my stick stays with me. I'll be personally inconvenienced if someone takes my stick away, but not going to think the person who has it is immoral, or has failed in their responsibility to respect my stick, merely that they've got the better of me.
  • Ownership is acknowledged, but the right to own more than you can defend is not. This is my stick, and ordinarily it would be wrong for you to take it, but the warehouse full of my sticks just down the road puts a rather different complexion on things.

In all these cases, your Orcish society will lack the consequences of the ability we have in our society to maintain a warehouse full of sticks (perhaps as part of the role of a stick manufacturer or trader), and most importantly to share the burden of defending that warehouse across society as a whole by taking action collectively against stick-raiders and by personally refraining from taking sticks even when we have the opportunity. The difference between an immoral act and mere business, is that people respond negatively to immoral acts that would otherwise be nothing to do with them, and refrain from immoral acts that would ostensibly benefit them.

Even in pre-modern societies that didn't have police (in fact, especially in such societies), the group as a whole was still upholding property rights by condemning thieves. With no such condemnation, property rights either don't exist at all or else are much more difficult to uphold, and therefore the things we reward with great wealth in our society (crucially: trade and organisation of labour) are less well-rewarded. There aren't going to be a whole lot of Orc merchants, because being a merchant is so much more difficult if the defence of your stuff is not "socialised" to any extent at all. By "socialised" I don't necessarily mean there needs to be a police force which everyone helps pay for, merely that people on the whole will go out of their way to assist a wronged party and hinder an immoral actor, simply because they recognise the act as immoral. If it's not immoral, you don't get that.

I'm not a ruthless free-marketeer, and I don't think like Libertarians do that property is the ultimate right. I don't think merchants have to be able to keep all their profit in order to be incentivised enough to make the whole thing worthwhile. But they have to get something, and public recognition of their entitlement to whatever's left after tax is something.

Merchants in a medieval-style society expect to hire guards, of course, and rich people in the modern world hire guards too. But when those guards catch a thief, they rely on the support of society to do something about it. So when you hire a guard you get more for you money than just physically obstructing thieves, you also get that thieves the guards catch are "dealt with" and thieves who fear being "dealt with" by society are deterred. There's a cost of doing business, but not so high as cost as it might be. You might think that private guards could just beat the thief up or kill them on the spot, so that thieves are "dealt with" without the help of morality. But if stealing isn't considered wrong, and killing people is considered wrong, then actually you can't do that because then you're the bad guy and society acts against you for beating people up who've done nothing wrong. There's a direct tangible benefit to property owners in society considering theft wrong, even if it doesn't look like society is really doing much about that belief.

However, you don't in practice get large-scale trade without large-scale rewards, and if the prevalence of theft reaches the extent that it's impractical to hold surplus, and actually there's no reward at all in accumulating wealth by trade or management, then economic growth and the large-scale co-ordination of resources may be very difficult to achieve. Furthermore, if any surplus is subject to being taken, then only those physically powerful enough to hold onto a surplus is going to have one, and everyone else will live basically hand to mouth.

Farming might be supported in what you describe: you don't raid someone's small field that they need to live, and you don't take their only coat, because that's too close to killing them. But as soon as someone has two fields, or a slightly nicer coat that they wear on special occasions? Then it's in someone else's interest to stop farming and instead make a living taking that person's surplus. If excess production isn't somehow rewarded then nobody will have anything nice. Of all the ways that have been attempted to reward the generation of surplus, property so far is the least useless.

My favorite trick for coming up with non-human psychology - rearranging Maslow's Hierarchy - has lead me to the conclusion that a hypothetical scifi/fantasy species might not fear death as much as we do.

Perhaps you could try the same thing: the species don't fear death, so they don't fear the idea starving should somebody else steal their means of collecting/saving food?

  • Personal death and genetic extinction are two different dangers. I might be indifferent to my own starvation, and still care about my children starving or my tribe dying out. – Beta Nov 15 '15 at 20:49
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    Yes. Because you're human ;) – Simpson17866 Nov 15 '15 at 20:58
  • No, because I'm an evolved organism. If you want to write a race that likes prestige more than food, that's easy, but if you want to write a race that doesn't care about the genetic imperative, you have your work cut out for you. – Beta Nov 15 '15 at 21:58
  • @Beta maybe just rearrange the top.. the basic needs such as basic security, food and shelter you keep at the bottom. Love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization could be swapped around in any order without major impact to the survivability of a species. – Clearer Nov 15 '15 at 22:03
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    It's well recognized that Maslow's Hierarchy forgot to put Wifi on the bottom tier, below food and water. – Cort Ammon Nov 16 '15 at 2:08

Stealing wouldn't be wrong if everybody always had whatever they want available to them. Either because of a massive surplus, or because people need very little. Alternatively, if keeping you possessions, including stolen ones, is impossible.

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    I think this answer would be very interesting, if you elaborated a bit. – Burki Nov 16 '15 at 13:39
  • In the plainest sense:

    Could I have a culture where stealing is not wrong?

    No. The definition of stealing is that it is wrong: "To steal: to take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal" from Merriam-Webster. If it is considered ok it gets a different name, like "taxes" (I'm not joking).

  • This implies that the society does not collapse just because it is considered ok to -- even forcibly -- take money that originally is not rightfully the taker's. The society's well-being depends a lot on what is done with that money. If children are educated with it the society will do well; if wars are waged the society will do less well.

  • Ritual exceptions are possible: Like in carnival, or as a rite of passage.

  • A similar "redistribution" could, I imagine, be achieved by Robin-Hoodesque mechanisms. Such a society would, as I see it, be fragmented enough that the term "steal" has different meanings for the different factions. The rich would consider Robin Hood's heists stealing; he would probably call it something else. Eve Online seems to be an example "society" where theft (and anything else, I think) is not illegal.

  • The same act which is forbidden for some people or when done to some people may be allowed if done by other people or done to other people. For example, murder was a crime in National Socialism, but not when Jews were murdered. Doctors may kill people in some countries under certain conditions but laymen may not. Taking things from a rival "tribe" may be ok, taking things from the own people may not.

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    @Burki I'm sure some very rich people could do very well without any public services, and in fact don't use many. They don't drive but fly the helicopter, they do not rely on a public health system, they have their private security, they send their kids to private schools. They would do equally well in a lawless country. (There seem, in fact, to be many very rich people in lawless countries.) Of course they also despise taxes. The same may be true for some well-armed libertarians West of the Pecos, or for some hermits in the Vermont mountains. – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:34
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    @Burki You may also be under the impression that I think one doesn't get anything in return from taxes -- that's not my opinion at all. (The average person has, as you say, a lot of advantages from a functioning public sector.) I'm only saying that the government takes, lawfully, what's originally mine. That it's lawful makes that we don't call it stealing. Some people, for example the libertarians do: they indicate with tha word that they deny the legitimacy of the (or any) government. Yes, I get something back for that, but what I get has no direct correlation to what the government takes. – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:39
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    @Burki, starting with the Magna Carta, the law is first and foremost protecting the poorer and the weaker from the richer and stronger. The rich and strong don't need the law very much. As I said, many rich people live in places with weak governments. They don't need one. They factually are the government, just without many laws attached. – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:44
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    @PeterSchneider: I think the rich benefit from law and order far more than you allow. Bill Gates isn't astonishingly rich because he has personal power that allows him to accumulate wealth, he's astonishingly rich because he has safe, stable markets to trade in. And while there are powerful people in lawless places like Somalia, they don't exactly make the global rich list. Libertarians aside (as you say their argument is different), most rich people argue tax in the manner of someone disputing how a restaurant bill is to be split up, not in the manner of someone being robbed at knifepoint. – Steve Jessop Nov 17 '15 at 2:53
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    @SteveJessop (1) Of course there are different laws in different places (I specifically mentioned Germany in the comment). (2) The dictionary I cited says "wrong [morally] or illlegal". (3) Obviously complementary views of two tribes that "stealing from the others is not really stealing" leads to mutually different assessments of the same acts. That is true for other acts as well. (ctd) – Peter A. Schneider Nov 17 '15 at 11:29

Maybe you can remove the concept of stealing. A society with high moral values is a good starting point.

Imagine a world which provides enough for everyone to survive. Imagine a society with high moral values which is more community based and less individual based. Imagine a society where there is no rivalry on property (who has the most money/bigger, more shiny house) but more on the contributions of an individual to the society (helping old people over the street, sharing food with those in need, helping to build the dam which brings water to the fields of the people of the village). Where the property belongs to the community (except maybe the weeding ring and other few things of sentimental value and those things essential for living (taking the last piece of food from a beggar or medical drugs is a big no-go)). Where it is no problem to go to your neighbour and borrow a wrench needed to repair the water pipes in your house - even if he is not there(for outsider it looks like stealing). He will take the wrench back when he needs it - or another neighbour who needs it. Of course it is discouraged by the society to take more then to give to the society in middle/long term. It doesn't have to be something material, community labour and living a moral life also count. People who don't abide these morals are indirectly punished by society (not inviting them for dinner up to declaring them to outlaws).

So there is no concept of stealing - as long as you give back to society. It's all about sharing/taking and giving back from and to the community.

Your first question is already answered by multiple other answers. To summarize my views:

  • you can't survive if others take too much from you and you don't get enough back
  • rivalry/people showing off with there property/enviousness
  • it's hard to guard your whole property the whole time
  • the item being of emotional value
  • the theft endangers the life of the victim (not enough food to survive the winter, ...)

Edit: Maybe you want to have a look at the series "No game no life" where it is lived up to eleven. In this everything (including who is the king) is decided by winning/loosing a game against the other. It is explicitly not cheating if you are not caught and this and bending the rules as much as possible is the main point of the series and is socially accepted by the society in there.

  • @Midwinter Sun added reference to "No game no life" – H. Idden Nov 16 '15 at 22:58

If you had a higher probability of losing what you had produced there might not be utility in creating excess. More effort would have to go into securing your property and being on guard than in spending time and effort in making theft attractive things. If people could not form alliances where fear of theft could be set aside then it would be an every man for himself proposition. Humans have prospered because we have formed United fronts and worked as team members on tasks too big for one person to accomplish.

I think you have got yourself an impossible, Catch-22 situation here. In a society, if the government/group decides that there is a property right in something, or if it is socially agreed that people have a property right, then by definition stealing that object would not be OK. On the other hand, if the group (and individuals) didn't think that there was a property right, then taking the object would be fine, but again, by definition, it wouldn't be theft.

An example of this (and the arbitrariness of it all-- property really is just socially constructed), consider a patent. For 17 years you have a property right in your invention. You can get the government to punish egregious violators and you can sue infringers. Thus 'theft' of a patent via infringement is theft and is not OK. On the other hand, the second the 17 years are over, the property right vanishes. Now people are free to use the patented invention. But it isn't theft, exactly because nobody thinks that a property right exists.

The most you will be able to do is either (a) find a society that doesn't have many property rights (but actually that doesn't meet your criteria, because then taking stuff isn't even theft...) or, maybe the best you can do, (b) a society where the group (government's) belief in what is property clashes with what most people agree is property. For instance, where the government is happy giving all water rights to foreign companies and forcing the population to pay to use water, while the population itself believes that the government can't allocate these rights so that taking water will not be viewed badly by the average person in the street. Of course, it would still be technically theft, but might be impossible to enforce.

As far as societies with fewer concepts of property, nomadic groups will have a much more constrained concept of property because they can only carry so much stuff with them anyway.

  • Among themselves, nomadic groups typically have a very strong code against stealing. "Thou shalt not steal" was a commandment of the Jews when they were a nomadic people. Islam, with its traditional punishment of amputation of the hand of a thief, arose among the semi-nomadic Arabs. This severity is understandable when you consider that in an environment of scarcity the loss of, for instance, a water gourd to theft, matters far more than it does to someone who can easily buy a new one. – Lostinfrance Nov 16 '15 at 7:21
  • I didn't say there were no property concepts in nomadic groups. For instance, nomadic Alaska Natives had their houses as personal property (in the seasonal village, actually the men mainly stayed in a communal house while their families occupied family homes), and objects you used personally were property, but the concept of land as property was very weak, and people often 'borrowed' each others large property such as boats. It is just that many categories of 'stuff' that we would consider property, they didn't. – user11599 Nov 16 '15 at 8:36

It's not inherently that bad to allow some people to live without working, and just take other people's resources, if there is enough surplus.

The real thing going bad is to allow people with lower status to play chicken. They make troubles that the people with higher status must resolve. If not, something very bad may happen. It's bad for all the people. But the people who has the ability to solve those problems are burdened much more.

It's even worse than the whole society being fed by a single person, who can decide how much to share. Other people can threat to "destroy" the surpluses, if not satisfied by sabotaging, to negotiate on any trivial matter. Even the good people can drop their responsibilities at all when the whole society faced some problems.

If this cannot be prevented in some way, I'd say the culture cannot last long after there is any surplus that people may make a long time schedule. But it can happen if, for examples:

  • There is supposed to be a way that people can protect their property perfectly with very low cost. Or in a way that the theft may cost much more to successfully steal. And the cost is arguably lower than hiring police.
  • Any resources can be generated easily and is much harder to destroy or use up.
  • There are something such as religions moving the immorality elsewhere. It might prefer stealing than starving, but it is also immoral to allow other people to starve, or to fail any project they are working on. This might not be easily enforceable, though. And their communication must be much more efficient and accurate than ours.
  • People take stealing and protection like a kind of sport with gambling. Technically you can quit the game. But it's so popular that the common people not participating is rare.
  • There are a lot of abandoned homes and property for some reason, and only stealing not abandoned things (and not to return if realized they aren't abandoned) are immoral.
  • People don't really own things in our way. The things are owned by some group or even the thing's own will. It's only allowed or practical to "steal" and use things according to some rules. People use things with different real owners so it's not practical to steal them all, and sometimes stealing may render things unusable. Anyway it looks like stealing to us.
  • People with higher status steals the lower, and it benefits the lower so they won't need to steal back, just like animals "stealing" the fruits. It effectively makes no sense to prevent those things being stolen. A better example would be the people who knows mining to steal the mine (and make sure it wouldn't be stolen again). Good or bad, it doesn't make sense to revenge by destroying the mine.
  • People simply follows whoever being stronger, in the sense that they can steal things successfully. And the stealer accepts the followers. So "stealing" doesn't imply unfair distribution.
  • They don't even care about those bad outcomes. Maybe they care more about the abstract concepts like finding life a meaning. They may even think the theft bears more for the society. Well, a bit twisted.

Basically that means:

  • Stealing makes sense, and isn't just a waste of time if people steals each other.
  • The leaders anywhere who need to consider other people the most can usually be protected.
  • Nobody likes wasting resources.

I assume "immoral" implies there is morality at all, so excluding the case that everybody is your enemy.

Why is stealing immoral?

I'll answer a slightly different question: why is stealing illegal? Aside from morality concerns, the people in control of government are typically the ones that have more stuff than the people not in control. It is in their best interest to make it illegal for the have-nots to come and take their things.

Can a society exist that allows stealing?

Note that in the counter-examples like the Discworld Thieves Guild and Native American tribes, it is almost always one group stealing from a larger or separate group. If this penchant existed throughout the entire population, I would expect notions of private property to break down entirely. In the same way that a wife might grab a husband's wallet to pay for a pizza in the real world, in this hypothetical world it could be perfectly normal to reach into the pocket of the next guy in line to pay for your lunch.

This sort of outlook on property can still make most of the things you want to happen, happen. Even if all property is shared and you can take whatever you want legally, it makes you rather look like a jerk if you steal someone's insulin shots that they desperately need.

It seems unlikely that "robin hood" redistribution of wealth would be particularly exciting. Anyone could do it, and it's unclear whether the wealthy "victim" would have any legal standing to stop thieves. Being that stealing is legal, any sort of traps or guards that would cause harm to thieves are almost certainly themselves illegal to maintain. Even something as basic as padlock manufacturers might seem like some of the greasiest predators, since their industry only exists to stop people from doing something that's both legal and socially acceptable.

And why would the rich lock things up anyway? Perhaps they might lock up rare pieces of art, but why save money in a vault when you can literally just walk over and drive off that new Rolls Royce without paying for it? Actually, now that I get to this point, why does this society have money at all?

However, there is still some leeway to have laudable exploits in the style of redistribution. Perhaps it's perfectly acceptable to take money out of someone's pocket in public, but for some reason or another it's considered a faux paus to have them realize that you're doing it. This could be extended to "getting caught" for almost any kind of stealing, although many people probably wouldn't bother to guard their belongings anyway, since they could just take from someone else whatever they needed.

Where stealing is considered immoral, there are religious or societal values that are in opposition to thievery. I'll let others expound on that.

Can a society exist that allows stealing? Yes. Sparta had a practice encouraging theft during childhood in order to develop desired skills. Your society could have an exaggerated form of this.

In many groups you can see a "sharing culture", when each member of the group has right to take and use many things (tools, etc) if they are lying around and just not currently in use by somebody else. Apart from ancient communities, scientific laboratories often operate this way (equipment, laboratory dishes, etc may be free to access to any member of the laboratory).

This is not strictly "stealing" because the taken item does not become a property and must be returned when no longer needed. But externally this looks very similar: an item can be taken away from you as soon as it is not in use or actively guarded.

This way of sharing is efficient but have problems with enforcing requirement to return the items in a timely manner and proper condition. If this becomes a problem, or if resources are limited, some more formal rules (reservation, single person in response, etc) may emerge, deviating from the "stealing culture".

It would be possible in a society that has no concept of ownership.
Or if the concept of ownership is limited to what you can carry with you.

And they probably wouldn't have a word for "taking ownership on something".

For example. Person A needs a shovel. Person B has a shovel. Person A takes the shovel, uses it, and keeps it. Till someone else needs the shovel and takes it.

In a way, this method of "friendly stealing/borrowing" what can already happen between (very) friendly neighbours.
Or in a community that shares everything.

"Stealing" is something needing a proper definition. I mean, taxation is a reality in pretty much all societies, and it basically is systematic robbery unless we are talking about direct taxation in which case it's more like theft.

So you first need to figure out why you don't consider it stealing before even asking your question.

  • taxation is the act of getting in the fees for public servicces. I assume you would not call it theft if a shop keeper wants money for the goods you plan to carry away? – Burki Nov 16 '15 at 8:16
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    @Burki Obviously your taxes are not a direct payment for services; if there is any relation it is probably reciprocal (the least taxed people use and need most services, and vice versa). That's clearly different from normal business relationships. Paying taxes is not optional either, as is your average business. I had, in fact, the same idea (cf. my post here): taxes are an example for taking something from somebody for no reason at all except community majority desision, aka the law. (ctd.) – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:12
  • (Ctd:) If the taxation is not lawful it is indeed considered stealing (e.g. National Socialists stole from Jews; the white settlers stole from Indians. Even people were stolen from Africa. The law this was based on, if any, is considered invalid from today's perspective.) – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:13
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    @Burki (1) It is not possible to give up the US citizenship until you have paid all outstanding taxes. It is clearly not optional. Even after you have paid all (non-optional) taxes you would become stateless which is a huge penalty. Normal business, by contrast, does not come with huge penalties when done elsewhere or avoided altogether, partly because there are anti-trust laws precisely to avoid monopolies of the kind the government has. (2) I cannot decide what I pay taxes for. Some people would love to pay only the fraction which is spent for legal certainty. – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:26
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    @Burki What makes you think I can only get bundled cell phone contracts? – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 '15 at 13:48

Why is stealing immoral?

Because we value our own survival higher then that of others. Property (except for wealthy people) is key to survival. Tools, crops, housing, transportation are not luxuries, they are necessities.

Could a culture that considers theft something neutral, even laudable if done in a particularly impressive manner, sustain itself?

Yes. In a society where ownership and possession of objects are not systematically linked. If the group / society owns Objects, you could basically have it anyway if you need it. Now, such a society would not likely have a word for "steal", except when the act of asking for an object is annoying (like you have to invest half a day in doing specific rites), someone would want to start to shortcut it.

That way you get a society where its okay to steal if:

  1. the victim is within the group of the culprit.
  2. the victim has the means to get it back, if needed.
  3. the priest who upholds the ancient rites of giving something is not within earshot.
  4. Its socially awkward for the victim to get it back.

Could you have high tech societies, with large cities, etc. with this?

Yes, but that's a tad more complicated (but not any more then our rules regarding who may date who, when, how and what may happen then are in our culture).

You could e.G. have theft be okay when you require the thief to leave a note, so the victim can claim it back.

(on a personal note) I got the impression that the ~12 cats of the house from my youth lived such a society. They would regularly steal the "best" toy of another cat, parade with it it front of some other cats and place it in "their" own regular sleeping place. If the victim cat made a fuss, they would return it, but usually it just "appeared" at the victim cats sleeping place on its own after a day or two, so I assume it got stolen back.

I don't think so. All cultures promote peace. And theft doesn't.

Even if it doesn't pose a threat in some case, it might change your thinking and your morals/principles.
Which, in turn, takes you to the wrong path, encouraging more wrongful deeds.

So, one way or the other, it is wrong.

  • Welcome to the site Taher. I think your answer may be a bit narrow. There have been plenty of societies where stealing is ok, perhaps not at the nation level mind you...though you could argue corrupt governments promote theft...for some. – James Nov 16 '15 at 15:16
  • @james Thank you for the positive criticism. But we can't promote a wrongful deed just because the whole world is doing it, do we? – Taher Giyori Nov 16 '15 at 15:29
  • Well thats just the thing isn't it. What should be promoted and reality just don't line up sometimes. When you look at ultra-wealthy dictators in third world countries its hard to argue that theft isn't a reality. Same goes for Robin Hood scenarios, that is certainly theft but is it wrong? I guess my point is your answer is idealistic as opposed to realistic and doesn't capture the nuances of the world. – James Nov 16 '15 at 15:40
  • I agree to your point. But just because we can't achieve a goal, doesn't mean we should stop aiming for it. – Taher Giyori Nov 16 '15 at 15:43

We already live in such a society.
I recently saw a case (in the US!) where one individual forcibly took and/or destroyed most of another person’s property (including taking over his house and everything in it, backed by “or else” threats of violence, defamation, death, etc.) and when the person sued, the court said this taking over and/or destroying property did not even give rise to a cause of action. A jury said that some of the individual’s other actions (e.g. in pursuit of making good on those threats) were "outrageous," but the judge ruled that forcibly taking and/or destroying another’s property does not even give rise to a cause of action in the courts! A different judge ruled that the owner could eventually take his property back, but not necessarily in the same condition, and the individual did not have to voluntarily surrender it nor pay for having taken and/or destroyed the owner's property.

In the US, those with the backing of law enforcement can also legally seize property of others even if its owner committed no crime. (See John Oliver’s coverage of the topic here). This may be more common in countries where corruption is more common, but it also happens surprisingly often in the US. Billions of dollars have been taken from people who weren’t even charged with a crime, and it’s all legal.

I’ve also recently read the official description of the “Theft Purchase Protection” benefit of a credit card from a major US bank, which allows people to buy things on the credit card having more confidence that if it's stolen shortly after purchase the cost will be reimbursed.
The details stated that “Theft Protection Coverage doesn’t apply to any item if the item was stolen as a result of illegal activity.” The coverage apparently applies to the subset of theft that is not illegal activity, which is a large enough subset to set up a whole insurance program that’s apparently fully capitalized and staffed.

Related to the first example, this article describes another (i.e. non-US) country where that first case is much more common. Dangerous individuals/groups come up to owners of homes and land demanding that the home and everything in them be turned over “or else” (violence, death, etc.), causing large numbers of people to be displaced from their original homes. 14% of the country’s national territory has been stolen from its original owners, and the people who took it are unlikely to face penalties as a condition of a pending peace deal.

Finally, there are existing communal societies in which there's no clear concept that XYZ thing is "mine and not yours" so if you take and use and even consume it, that's not considered stealing.

Conclusion: Apparently, at least sometimes, theft is legal, in existing societies, even if that fact isn’t widely known.

Note: I recognize the question asked more about moral than legal but also asked about “a culture that considers theft something neutral.” Here, the various parties involved appear to disagree over the question of morality but the legal system speaks on behalf of the larger culture or society.

  • This all looks very interesting. Do you have any citeable sources? – Clearer Nov 3 '17 at 9:43

There are certain things that are ingrained in us as humans. The immorality of certain activities is one of those things. I believe that stealing is one of those things that humans intrinsically feel is "wrong." I feel like you couldn't have a society in which stealing is guided by certain morals, because human nature would automatically break that down into chaos and anarchy.

  • I remember reading somewhere that the concept of posession, of ownership, is somethign that children have to learn. That seems to contradict your idea of it being ingrained. Unfortunately i cannot find the source atm. – Burki Nov 16 '15 at 13:17
  • They're tribal orcs (who eventually develop civilization and outlaw thievery, though things like the "thieves' guild" remain despite the law). I think I can bend their version of morality away from normal human psychology a bit. As humans, though, I can see where you're coming from. – Midwinter Sun Nov 16 '15 at 21:17

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