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Is Stealing Ever Justified?

It is necessary to pay more attention to the causal relationship for the interpretation of all crimes and misdemeanors, that is, to study the factors influencing the causes of the occurrence of a variety of crimes. The reason is that their content is closely related to each other. Stealing is a social phenomenon, therefore, its causes must be sought not in mental and personal states, but social foundations. Although stealing is a crime that leads to social injustice, there are rare instances where the action is justified, such as survival and social adaptation.

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Stealing is an act that can be observed among various creatures of the animal kingdom because it is promoted by natural selection. The phenomenon is known as kleptoparasitism, and it can be seen in a wide range of birds, including Gentoo penguins (Handley & Pistorius, 2016). Although the fact that stealing and killing are common in nature does not mean that these methods are appropriate for civilized societies, one should be aware that stealing is part of survival. Throughout history, humanity has tried to collect as much information as possible about its own environment and has been in search of the causes generated by this environment and society of crimes. The main features of the nature of a person and the identity are formed in the conditions of the social environment, that is, an individual adapts to the social environment on the basis of the existing social potential. It so happens that even a strong organism can be brought into such a form when, by isolation, suffering, passions, and desires, it will destroy its great natural capabilities, and even, possibly, put an end to its existence.

Social activity is directed towards the personality from the outside and develops it through conscience. The research suggests that the majority of homeless young adults rely on minor stealing acts in order to survive (Ferguson et al., 2011). Therefore, stealing is justified as a method of survival because these homeless individuals are the result of society’s structural dysfunction. Therefore, theft is justified because it is a social adaptation that allows certain abandoned individuals to put food on the table.

The counter-argument can be that stealing is never justified, even in case of survival, but it is not plausible and realistic among civilizations that were built on the notion of stealing. The United States was founded on the stolen and conquered land of Native Americans, which means no idea of absolutism can be used as a basis for making a simplistic conclusion. Stealing is immoral and wrong in the vast majority of cases, but one can understand that there are instances where it is a deciding factor between survival or death. Evidently, large scale thievery is common among corrupted officials and governments, and it deals with a substantial amount of damage. However, minor stealing is far less harmful because cash behaves legally, and profits are dispersed, whereas large organization-level crime corrupts markets (Naylor, 2003). Thus, stealing is justified under certain conditions, and an absolutist view is both impractical and faulty.

In conclusion, stealing is an act of crime and injustice that can be the only option for disadvantaged individuals. It can be observed in nature among kleptoparasites, which means that it an element of natural selection that considers such behavior as essential for survival. In addition, stealing is justified because it is social adaptation behavior, where dysfunctional societies abandon these individuals. Although it is immoral to steal, the statement that stealing is never justified is false due to its simplicity and impracticality.


Ferguson, K. M., Bender, K., Thompson, S., Xie, B., & Pollio, D. (2011). Correlates of street-survival behaviors in homeless young adults in four U.S. Cities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(3), 401-409.

Handley, J. M., & Pistorius, P. (2016). Kleptoparasitism in foraging gentoo penguins pygoscelis papua. Polar Biology, 39, 391-395.

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Naylor, R. T. (2003). Towards a general theory of profit-driven crimes. The British Journal of Criminology, 43, 81-101.

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