Stealing from an individual is theft, so is stealing from an institution but the reaction to the case of the couple who absconded after taking millions of dollars that were mistakenly credited to their account suggests not everyone thinks so.
The news has spread around the world and The Guardian has a comment by the editor of The Philospoher magazine Julian Baggini who says:
People say such cases create “moral dilemmas”, but there are none. Taking the money is just wrong. You know it’s not yours and you could easily not take it. The only dilemma is whether to do the right thing or give in to temptation. Of course, it’s not difficult to invent spurious justifications. Some say the bank made the mistake so it should pay the price. That’s like stealing a car and saying it’s the fault of the owner for leaving the keys in. Others perversely descend into the ditch of self-serving mendacity and pretend they’re occupying the moral high ground. The banks are thieving, lying bastards who have spent all our money, they cry, so it’s only fair that we steal it back. WWRHD? (What would Robin Hood do?) Put it like that and it almost seems as if theft is your duty.
So we forget all the times we’ve said “two wrongs don’t make a right”. We forget that principled civil disobedience is carried out in public, not as secretly as possible. We forget that the answer to WWRHD? is that he’d give it away to the poor, not go on a spending binge. Most of all, we forget how quick we were to condemn politicians for milking their expenses, albeit legally, just because they could.
There is no moral complexity here, only a simple truth of human nature: that something that seems very wrong can quickly and easily seem very right, if it suits us.
He might be right but the behaviour isn’t, although that view isn’t supported by a disturbing number of the commenters at The Herald who think it’s okay because it’s “only” a bank.
But it’s not “only” the bank’s money. It’s the money of the customers and shareholders who will pay one through higher charges and lower dividends for the costs of the theft.
I concur with Barnsley Bill who asks how did we get to be so dishonest?