The ethics of stealing

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catya
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The ethics of stealing

Post by catya »

Recently there was an article in the associated press about widespread theft in Iowa and other rural places-- people driving up to abandoned farmhouses in the dead of night and taking truckfuls of old architectural stuff to be sold in wealthier urban areas.

At the time I thought that was disgusting ...

but then last week I visited some relatives way up north in Wisconsin, where there are many such houses... and barns, many of them falling down There was one house I managed to get into and prowl around inside ... very cautiously as the floor was about to give out ---esp. in the kitchen where an old fridge and a huge iron wood stove was half-way sunk into the basement. One false move and the whole thing would've caved. Other than the effects of rain and weather, it was virtually untouched since the 50s with lots of bead board and the kitchen walls and ceiling were lined with stamped tin panels. There were a couple of wonderful freestanding handmade cupboards not in too terrible condition.

I asked my aunt who owned the place and she said some stingy guy owned it who had bought up a bunch of properties and who would never sell any of it even the contents of the bldgs--apparently some other people had asked.

I guess I still question the morality of taking truckloads of stolen stuff to sell in Chicago or New York (how do they know that some family isnt completely aware of what stuff is worth and is needing the income themselves?) And I will of course make an effort to contact the owner before just taking stuff ... ... but jeez isn't there a point where there is some greater good to consider-- if something is just left to rot is it not better to save for posterity?

HouseMouse
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Re: The ethics of stealing

Post by HouseMouse »

catya wrote:I guess I still question the morality of taking truckloads of stolen stuff to sell in Chicago or New York (how do they know that some family isnt completely aware of what stuff is worth and is needing the income themselves?) And I will of course make an effort to contact the owner before just taking stuff ... ... but jeez isn't there a point where there is some greater good to consider-- if something is just left to rot is it not better to save for posterity?
Since you'll be making an effort to contact the owner before taking the stuff -- but from your words it sounds like you will be taking the stuff anyway -- what is the difference between it being saved for posterity to be sold in a big city and saved to be in your home? What is the greater good here, and why?

I think that stealing is stealing in this case. Either some reseller would be stealing it or you would be. The end result doesn't come into play here, it's just stuff being taken. If you're trying to talk yourself into it not being such a bad thing to do because you won't be reselling it and you will take good care of it, better care than it's getting now, well, it's still stealing. So leave the reasons out of it and decide if you can live with adding theft to the trespassing you've already done. :lol:

I think it's not for us to decide the "ethics" of stealing, it's for you to decide. If you can deal with having stolen stuff in your house and possibly getting caught and prosecuted, go for it. If not, leave it. We can all tell you what we think we might or might not do in your place, but you will be the one to live with the consequences (possibly none) and reminders (the stuff being incorporated into your home) of your actions, so you have to decide what you can live with.
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HB
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Location: Reading - PA

Post by HB »

Be careful. You're treading on dangerous ground. Your greater good may be different from somebody else's greater good.

After all, that's the whole basis of "emminent domain" that has been discussed here before.

You think that the architectural items and history that the fella OWNS could be better used for a restoration project, whereas Wal mart thinks that the farm you OWN would be better better used for a new store that would create jobs and tax base for the community......how dare you deprive the community for your own selfish peace and quiet and a couple of pet sheep and a mangy old dog :shock:

If he owns it, he owns it and that's unfortunate.

HOWEVER - I would continue to pester and ask him about saving the stuff until he pulled a restraining order. :wink:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's not a quantitative thing.

HB

Don M
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Post by Don M »

Yes, I understand where you are coming from but stealing is still stealing no matter how it's justified. My Great Aunt's very historic home in Cape Vincent, NY has an entire room imported from France in Lafyette's time. It has hand painted wallpaper, a corbelled ceiling with oil paintings inset with eagles & patriotic themes, hand blown window glass, French marble mantle etc. It was sold out of the family in the 1980s. I saw it last spring and it's being allowed to fall into ruin by the estate of the present owner. I too would love to save what I could from the house but it's not mine so I contacted the local historic society with the hope they would do something to preserve the house. It's a shame & a crime to just let it go. Don

jeepnstein
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Post by jeepnstein »

Stealing is stealing. There can be no justification for it.

J.

catya
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Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 10:55 am

Post by catya »

For the record-- nope, I'm not trying to talk myself into it-- am far too big of a wimp to risk arrest (its not that well concealed from the road and the guy sounds like he wouldnt just let it go if I was caught.) Not to mention risk of falling thru the floor and getting killed! But it doesn't hurt to fantasize, does it?

Am expressing frustration. Perhaps a better line of inquiry might be-- how best to approach this guy? How do I say what I want w/o also admitting I know whats in the bldg? What kind of price to offer?

Don M
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Post by Don M »

I would simply contact him; tell him you are interested in old house items with your reasons why you want to preserve them and see what he says. There's no accounting for reasons some folks are willing to allow historic properties to fall into ruin. If he's not receptive to your argument perhaps a local historic society might be interested in assisting? Don

Starr-Point
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Post by Starr-Point »

Everyone here is right - the end does not justify the means.

Don et.al. are right - just ask the guy nicely and keep doing so over the next two years. Show up with a 12-pack or a bottle of Maker's Mark on the holidays. It took me three years to talk a local farmer into letting me hunt woodcock on his land, a similarly stubborn and stingy man, and by the time he said yes I'd done all kinds of farm chores for him. Let the man know you're an enthusiast, not a reseller.

Your guy imay be more afraid of being "taken" or tired of being talked down to more than anything. You may also consider that perhaps all that stuff is his children's inheritance, belongs to other family members, etc.
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jeepnstein
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Post by jeepnstein »

Does the guy know you've already been in the house? What does he think about that?

Your best approach would be to stick a wad of bills in your pocket and ask him his price. If you can't strike a deal then c'est la vie.

J

Starr-Point
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Post by Starr-Point »

You know, that may be the best idea. If you have some sense of what's there and what you might pay for it, get that amount of money out of the bank in $20s and go talk to him. You may find him hard and stingy, but he might just melt a little if faced with a wad of cash!
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