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bad news for Javert

I'm curious what people make of this one. Basically, a starving man was caught stealing about $5 worth of food and was facing six months and jail and a fine worth a little over $100. The judges said he couldn't be convicted because the right to live trumped the right to your property.

I think I agree on the substance - I definitely don't think people should go to jail for something so minor, for a whole host of reasons. Still, putting it in terms of rights makes me uneasy. I'd say the store-owner still had a right to that food, it's just a bit... indecent, I guess, to insist on that right. So petty and callous that it's beneath the dignity of the state to enforce that right here. This isn't about rights, it's about basic moral decency and the kind of person who would look at a starving man and say more than just he has to give the food back, he can't come back to the store - that he actually needs to go to prison. "Obscene" is the only word that really seems appropriate.

Still, putting it in terms of rights seems to miss something here. Maybe it's just me.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 5th, 2016 05:36 am (UTC)
I think the problem is that morality has become too linked with Judeo-Christian religions so it's ceased to be a legally responsible term. Whereas with "rights', everyone agrees that rights are perfectly fine to discuss in court and use as a legal argument.
May. 5th, 2016 07:12 am (UTC)
I don't know how exactly the judges put it, but the idea that stealing to survive has a special legal status doesn't seem new. Just as killing somebody in self-defence has a different status from other kinds of manslaughter.
The other person's right to their property isn't therefore diminished, surely, just suspended under the particular circumstances?
May. 5th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC)
Where did happen?
I think here (in US) the punishment would be seen as absurd and the whole thing would be referred to Human Services rather than the legal system.
But putting it in terms of 'rights' seems to me like the first step on a slippery slope.
Killing somebody in self-defense is very narrowly defined, partially as to whether there is imminent danger. Would this guy have died right then without that item? Because you can't shoot someone because you think they might kill you in future - they have to be coming at you at that moment.
May. 6th, 2016 03:22 am (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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