Choose Life, Not Law
By Ananya Manglik
Argumentative Essay: ‘should stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family be considered a crime?’
‘The hero stood above his weakened, defeated nemesis, blade pointed towards her heart, aimed to pierce through her armour. Aimed to kill. Should he kill her? It would be the right thing to do, given the war, the destruction she spread. But was that enough to justify murder? I’ll leave that to you, while we explore a less dark version of this moral dilemma: if stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family is a crime. Stealing is defined as the act of ‘taking another person's property without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.’ The way I see it, even though stealing is wrong, stealing the bread should not be considered a crime.
It is not morally wrong to steal if it saves lives, because it is the lesser of the two evils. There is a pecking order of human rights, and life sits on the pinnacle. This is one of the few cases where the end justifies the means, and sits in the grey area where it’s morally right even though it’s legally wrong. The loaf of bread will stop an entire family from dying of starvation, and that holds more importance than crime against property. Therefore, I believe that stealing the bread should not be considered a crime.
However, more information is required to justify the action. If the bread was stolen from someone who doesn't need it as desperately as the one who needs it to feed his starving family, it is justified. But, if the loaf of bread was stolen, knowingly, from one who needs it just as much as the thief, it is a serious crime and must be dealt with accordingly. It is also relevant to consider if stealing was a last resort, or simply the easiest solution. Did the thief ask if someone could give them the bread? Were soup kitchens available to quench their hunger? Could the thief have worked to earn enough to pay for the bread? Without these details, we are not in a position to judge.
One could argue that despite the action being morally right, it is still punishable by law; the lesser of the two evils is still evil. Stealing the bread, even if it is to feed a starving family, is still a theft, a crime of dishonestly taking someone’s property without their consent. However, it is petty theft, as the loaf is of low value, and does not make much of an impact in the grand scheme of things. After all, even an ambulance will run a red light in an emergency.
“Everyone has a right to choose life, regardless of the law.” The thief may be guilty in the eyes of the law, but I believe that his actions are morally justified. In court, a judge would consider all the factors; whether stealing was a last resort or just an easy way out, the value of the loaf of bread to the owner, and the cost of all those lives. Considering all of this, if it is still morally right, the thief should be let off the hook, just as long as he doesn’t make a habit of stealing, and finds a way to pay the owner back. In the end, saving lives is a lot more important than a mere loaf of bread.
By Ananya Manglik