When Stealing Is Forced Into Legality

I was thinking about writing something else this evening, when my attention was hijacked by a Twitter post. If you’re too lazy to click on it, I’ll give you the TLDR: San Francisco has decriminalized petty theft, so if you steal less than $900 in value, police can’t stop you. So literally people are stealing in plain daylight from stores and run away on their bicycles. And nobody can’t stop them.

I don’t know the processes that led to this law, although I have my hunches, but the reality of it is… strange.

Why $900? Why not more? Or why not just $100? And how is this calculated: per theft, or per day? So if you steal all day long stuff worth less $900 from dozens of shops, I reckon you would probably make a small fortune quite fast. Or at least live a very comfortable life.

It seems to me like a very weird way to implement UBI (Universal Basic Income). It’s like a layer of goods – worth less than $900 – is not guaranteed to belong to their rightful owners anymore, and anyone has access to it, if they want. Property is not guaranteed anymore.

So if society doesn’t guarantee property anymore, I guess the only way to go forward will remain self-enforcement. People will self-enforce the rights to their property. Yes, it might be legal to get away with under $900 of what’s mine, but that’s only if I allow you to do so. If you can actually get away with it. So, since the state doesn’t protect me for this $900, I will implement my own measures.

Authority is dissolving into a more liquid blanket inside society. It’s not solely the prerogative of the elected body, it’s now spreading across to various levels. If I own a small shop, I will most likely implement my own rules, and not rely on the state or the police to protect me anymore. In other parts of the world, these parallel authority systems are called “mafia”.

I don’t think those who proposed and supported this law saw this coming. I think they probably wanted to “protect” people who “steal because they can’t afford a job”. But the effect will be most likely amplified, and not in this direction. I expect to see even more segregation as a result of this: there will be more and more enforcement by individuals protecting their property, and less authority from the “state”. More polarization.

Anyway, it’s weird to see how stealing is forced into legality. We live in strange times.

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