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.
- 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?
- 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.