Tyndmyr wrote:Allowing people to steal from supermarkets sounds like a terrible solution.
But that's not what this is. This is "forgiving someone when he does steal due to extreme circumstances".
Okay, but WHY do you forgive crimes? If it's because you're fixing a case where the system went askew in an unforeseen situation and caused injustice, well, okay, fine. Laws are made by people and are imperfect. You do it as a solution to a problem.
But this is precisely what laws against petty theft are for. It isn't a one of a kind case, it's a pretty normal case for the supermarket. If this guy can steal because he's hungry, other people are likely to as well. This is creating a problem.
And it's not a "solution". It isn't meant to be. It's a decision on whether or not to exact vengeance from a starving homeless man for stealing a small amount of food from a supermarket that probably throws more than that out every day. It's also a practical societal decision which balances a few euros of theft against the cost (to the state and to the individual) of six months imprisonment, and a hundred euro fine he probably can't afford to pay anyway. It's the poster child for charity and welfare.
Punishment isn't about vengeance. It's about making society work. If you're basing your rules around vengeance, you're going to have...problems.
I get that, morally, there's a difference between a starving man stealing food and people stealing diamonds or whatever, but in practice, stealing is still a social problem, which needs to be dealt with in some fashion. Punishment isn't the *only* solution, but it's often part of it.
For something to be a "solution", there has to be a defined problem. None was defined here. However, it's quite easy to find some problems in the situation; to wit, the fact that the store lost money due to theft, the fact that the man was poor and homeless, the fact that supermarket transactions are not 100% secure, the (presumed) fact that supermarkets throw (unsellable) food out rather than give to the poor, the fact that so much fuss and so many societal resources are devoted to resolving these minor issues when there's real crime to address... on and on. Each of these merits a different, sometimes incompatible solution, which is why no solutions exist. It depends what you think is important.
Yes, many of those undesired outcomes are themselves the results of such thinking. I mean, supermarkets often don't want the hassle of handling food distribution to the poor, and they don't want to attract them specifically because of negative consequences. So, giving food out becomes counter productive for them. These sorts of decisions make supermarkets LESS inclined to have poor-friendly programs, since attracting them increases risk.
Shoplifting IS real crime. It's a major concern for retail establishments, because it's a significant threat to them. Supermarkets, for instance, usually have fairly thin net margins, so even a fairly low rate of theft poses a major problem for them.
I also believe most societies have(or at least, generally support) SOME sort of program slightly more generous than "let them starve in the streets", which is probably better than randomly grabbing food from supermarkets.
Look, we've improved some things quite a bit, there's no reason to assume that we've maxed out on how much we can improve law/society. Better solutions do exist.
This sort of thing ends up being held up as "nobody cares about us", which ends up with unfortunate reactions. The justice system needs to respond appropriately, but not responding at all isn't really a good path either.