What is theft?

by on February 25, 2010 at 7:07 am in Law, Philosophy | Permalink

Chris Hartman does a fill in the blank exercise on Google — "_______ is theft?" — and reports this:

Theft league table

It's #2 that warms my heart.  Of course you'll note that it's publishers who appear on this list four times.

Addendum: Chris reports some additional results.

1 Ross Parker February 25, 2010 at 8:33 am

Quite interesting, but is there a point?

2 Geego February 25, 2010 at 8:56 am

Looking at the 10th and 20th page of results for “theft is theft”, none of the entries is related to logicians. It looks more like a rhetorical cliche sentence used by publishers, libertarians, pacifists, anarchists, communists, academics, squatters and goldbugs.

3 ivan February 25, 2010 at 9:11 am

Since public choice theory we know we cannot expect the truth from interest groups. So we still don’t know what theft is. The only thing we know to be true is that publishers are idiots.

4 Jirka Lahvicka February 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

While plagiarism is (usually) illegal (or at least it can get you fired), downloading, copying, and “piracy” (supposing it is not the high-seas variety) are in many countries (European Union and others) at least partially legal.

5 libert February 25, 2010 at 10:07 am

Copying is theft? Then why isn’t the FBI cracking down on Kinko’s?

6 John February 25, 2010 at 10:56 am

Wasn’t “Property is Theft” an old Marxist slogan?

Also I love the commenters taking that take this literally. You guys are cute. Bill Stepp is particularly incoherent in this regard. Me I’ll stick with the logicians.

7 Aaron February 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

Plagiarism, while not being theft per se, is still pretty close. Recognition for a work is a semi-rival good, so If people are led to believe that I have written “Ender’s Game” then while Orson Scott Card still possesses the original work, he no longer possesses many of the benefits associated with authorship (easier access to publishing deals in the future, book signings, etc). Certainly recognition can be restored, but so too can stolen goods.

8 Barkley Rosser February 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

“Property is theft” was due to Proudhon, usually labeled an anarchist. Marx despised him.
Proudon wrote a book entitled _The Philosophy of Poverty_, and Marx wrote one mocking him
entitled, _The Poverty of Philosophy_.

9 Jayson Virissimo February 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm

“”Property is theft” was due to Proudhon, usually labeled an anarchist.” -Barkley Rosser

This is true. Two of his lesser known sayings are “property is impossible” and “property is liberty”.

10 Ike Ahnoklast February 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Theft: the use, removal or denial of somebody else’s good or services without their informed uncoerced consent.


I generally find that any other proposed definition is just BS intended to excuse whatever form of theft the speaker happens to favor…

11 Careless February 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm

“Theft is theft” came in second, probably owing more to its rhetorical use by the digital publishers than as a logician’s example of the law of identity, but I decided to give the logicians credit anyway.

Sadly, #2 was too good to be true.

12 Stuhlmann February 26, 2010 at 4:26 am

Chris should add in “alimony” is theft and look at the results. Not sure who the interest group would be – lawyers? anyone with a significantly higher income than his/her spouse?

13 agnostic February 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm

2. BTW, “theft is theft” probably is being used to mean that theft is a black-and-white matter of justice, not loose, vague, and indeterminate:

“Oh what’s the big deal if I took a few dollars from my mom’s wallet? She won’t know, and I really need it.”

“No, that’s just wrong — theft is theft.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: