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Stealing & Magic: the Gathering September 9, 2010

Posted by James in : all, random , trackback

The worst crime against a Magic player that is actually relevant to being a Magic player is theft. You can and should take precautions against theft, but we also need to commit ourselves to be moral. We need to make a personal commitment to not to steal from others when given the opportunity.

People tend to want to be moral and it’s not just sociopaths who steal from others. Regular people for one reason or another decide to steal from others. Most people who steal think it’s “no big deal.” They hate murderers, dirty cops, and corrupt politicians like everyone else—but stealing a Magic card, Magic deck, or Magic collection isn’t important enough to really worry about. This attitude is completely irrational. Murderers, dirty cops, and corrupt politicians have similar attitudes. Everyone hates the “real bad guys” but refuse to admit that they might be one of them. It’s time to stop making excuses to hurt others and make a commitment to be a better person.

I will discuss why theft is wrong and how inappropriate thoughts and emotions cause people to steal from others.

Why theft is wrong.

First, we have property rights. Property is a very convenient way to organize society. I own my own clothes so that I can take care of my own clothes and have something to wear. I have my own home so that I can take care of my own home and have a place to live. I have my own money so that I can manage my own needs and buy things that I can afford.

Without property rights it could be very difficult to clothe myself, live in a home, and manage my own needs. Other people could take my clothes, food, home, or money. Without property rights we would not be able to work for a living. I would work to make money to get food and so on, but other people could take my money or food.

The more people steal from others, the more property rights are violated and destroyed. If people steal from you every second, then there will be no point in saying that you have property rights. Stealing is self-defeating in that it disrespects rights that it requires. People who steal from you have to rely on property rights or there would be no point to stealing. They want to take your Magic cards, but taking your cards would be pointless if they would just be stolen again. People who steal need everyone else to be well behaved and they want to be the lucky few who are willing to cheat the system.

Property rights are not absolute. If someone is starving to death and has no legal way to attain food, then stealing might be necessary. However, people who steal your Magic cards are probably not stealing for that reason.

Second, stealing hurts people. The ways that stealing hurts people might be countless, but I will mention three:

  1. People often have to work for their property and stealing means that you are willing to make them waste their time at work just so you can take their stuff.
  2. Stealing is invasive. You not only have to violate someone’s right to property, but you have to violate their personal space.
  3. Stealing is disrespectful. Stealing treats someone as a meaningless object that exists only to benefit others. People are important and they should be treated as being important. If you really think that people aren’t important, then murder, slavery, and rape would no longer be wrong. All of the horrors that need to be avoided are based on the belief that people are important.
  4. People who have their stuff stolen can suffer emotionally. The pleasure and excitement attained from stealing is insignificant to the amount of harm and suffering it causes.

Inappropriate Thoughts and Emotions Cause Stealing

Consider the following common thoughts that commonly go through someone’s head when they steal:

  1. I want that, so I should take it.
  2. It will be fun to steal this and share it with my friends.
  3. Someone stole from me, so I should take from someone else.
  4. That person hurt me, so I should hurt them back.
  5. I don’t like that person, so it’s okay for me to steal from him or her.

I will consider why each of these thoughts is inappropriate.

I want that, so I should take it.

This is the most common thought associated with theft and theft wouldn’t make much sense without it. However, the thought is still inappropriate because it suppresses relevant information. Yes, it might be good for you to get someone when you steal. However, it is bad for someone else. You aren’t the only person who matters. Other people are just as real as you are.

Our society can make it difficult to see other people as real and important. It can be difficult to realize that when others get hurt, it’s bad for the same reason as when you get hurt. The more time we spend watching television and on the internet, the less time we spend feeling connected to other people, and others might no longer “feel” real to us. We might start to have a harder time feeling empathy towards others.

Spending time with friends and family can help us learn to love other people and realize their importance, but we have to realize that strangers are also important. Friends and family aren’t just important because we enjoy spending time with them. They are important because they have minds, thoughts, and dreams, just like everyone else.

Imagine that it was appropriate to steal just because it’s a way to get what you want. In that case we would have to admit that it’s appropriate for others to steal from us for the same reason. If Martha things she should steal from others and steals Chris’s Magic cards because she wants them, then she has to realize that other people who want her cards should steal from her—But there’s no way she would think that.

It will be fun to steal this and share it with my friends.

Some people realize that other people matter—such as their friends. The most enjoyable experiences we have tend to be with others we care about. Stealing is most enjoyable when done with friends because we think our friends are important and deserve happiness. However, this thought is inappropriate because strangers are important as well. Our friends aren’t the only people who matter.

Someone stole from me, so I should take from someone else.
When we face injustice and have our stuff stolen, we might decide we deserve to own those things and can even things out by stealing from others. However, this is not justice. If $100 is stolen from you and you steal $100 from someone else, then you are no better than the thieves who stole from you. You might deserve the $100 that was stolen from you, but the people you could steal from also deserve their money. Again, you aren’t the only person who matters. We need to realize that everyone counts.

That person hurt me, so I should hurt them back.

If someone hurts you, then there is a sense of justice in revenge. We think that they deserve punishment or have a duty to compensate us. There are at least two problems with this thought. One, our personal sense of justice is biased towards ourselves. Someone who insults us might not think it’s a big deal, but we might think it’s a very big deal. We tend to exaggerate the harms done to us by others, and we tend to dismiss the harms we do to others as being less significant than they really are.

Two, punishment is best served by the justice system not only because a third party could see things more clearly, but also because guilt must be determined. It is possible to attribute guilt to the wrong person.

I don’t like that person, so it’s okay for me to steal from him or her.

The idea here is that you want something and you think someone else doesn’t deserve it. However, the people we don’t like have value like everyone else. We don’t have the right to decide that others aren’t important based on our personal preferences. Again, we aren’t the only person who matters. The harm done even to those we dislike matters and should be avoided.

Conclusion

Stealing violates people’s rights and disrespects people who are important. Theft tends to be based on an irrational belief that we are more important than everyone else. Everyone matters including strangers and people we dislike. To steal from others is to hurt them to benefit yourself, but they matter just as much as we do. We know that it’s wrong for others to steal from us, but it’s wrong for us to steal from others for the same reason.

  1. People often have to work for their property and stealing means that you are willing to make them waste their time at work just so you can take their stuff.
  2. Stealing is invasive. You not only have to violate someone’s right to property, but you have to violate their personal space.
  3. Stealing is disrespectful. Stealing treats someone as a meaningless object that exists only to benefit others. People are important and they should be treated as being important. If you really think that people aren’t important, then murder, slavery, and rape would no longer be wrong. All of the horrors that need to be avoided are based on the belief that people are important.
  4. People who have their stuff stolen can suffer emotionally. The pleasure and excitement attained from stealing is insignificant to the amount of harm and suffering it causes.

Inappropriate Thoughts and Emotions Cause Stealing

Consider the following common thoughts that commonly go through someone’s head when they steal:

  1. I want that, so I should take it.
  2. It will be fun to steal this and share it with my friends.
  3. Someone stole from me, so I should take from someone else.
  4. That person hurt me, so I should hurt them back.
  5. I don’t like that person, so it’s okay for me to steal from him or her.

I will consider why each of these thoughts is inappropriate.

I want that, so I should take it.

This is the most common thought associated with theft and theft wouldn’t make much sense without it. However, the thought is still inappropriate because it suppresses relevant information. Yes, it might be good for you to get someone when you steal. However, it is bad for someone else. You aren’t the only person who matters. Other people are just as real as you are.

Our society can make it difficult to see other people as real and important. It can be difficult to realize that when others get hurt, it’s bad for the same reason as when you get hurt. The more time we spend watching television and on the internet, the less time we spend feeling connected to other people, and others might no longer “feel” real to us. We might start to have a harder time feeling empathy towards others.

Spending time with friends and family can help us learn to love other people and realize their importance, but we have to realize that strangers are also important. Friends and family aren’t just important because we enjoy spending time with them. They are important because they have minds, thoughts, and dreams, just like everyone else.

Imagine that it was appropriate to steal just because it’s a way to get what you want. In that case we would have to admit that it’s appropriate for others to steal from us for the same reason. If Martha things she should steal from others and steals Chris’s Magic cards because she wants them, then she has to realize that other people who want her cards should steal from her—But there’s no way she would think that.

It will be fun to steal this and share it with my friends.

Some people realize that other people matter—such as their friends. The most enjoyable experiences we have tend to be with others we care about. Stealing is most enjoyable when done with friends because we think our friends are important and deserve happiness. However, this thought is inappropriate because strangers are important as well. Our friends aren’t the only people who matter.

Someone stole from me, so I should take from someone else.

When we face injustice and have our stuff stolen, we might decide we deserve to own those things and can even things out by stealing from others. However, this is not justice. If $100 is stolen from you and you steal $100 from someone else, then you are no better than the thieves who stole from you. You might deserve the $100 that was stolen from you, but the people you could steal from also deserve their money. Again, you aren’t the only person who matters. We need to realize that everyone counts.

That person hurt me, so I should hurt them back.

If someone hurts you, then there is a sense of justice in revenge. We think that they deserve punishment or have a duty to compensate us. There are at least two problems with this thought. One, our personal sense of justice is biased towards ourselves. Someone who insults us might not think it’s a big deal, but we might think it’s a very big deal. We tend to exaggerate the harms done to us by others, and we tend to dismiss the harms we do to others as being less significant than they really are.

Two, punishment is best served by the justice system not only because a third party could see things more clearly, but also because guilt must be determined. It is possible to attribute guilt to the wrong person.

I don’t like that person, so it’s okay for me to steal from him or her.

The idea here is that you want something and you think someone else doesn’t deserve it. However, the people we don’t like have value like everyone else. We don’t have the right to decide that others aren’t important based on our personal preferences. Again, we aren’t the only person who matters. The harm done even to those we dislike matters and should be avoided.

Conclusion

Stealing violates people’s rights and disrespects people who are important. Theft tends to be based on an irrational belief that we are more important than everyone else. Everyone matters including strangers and people we dislike. To steal from others is to hurt them to benefit yourself, but they matter just as much as we do. We know that it’s wrong for others to steal from us, but it’s wrong for us to steal from others for the same reason.

A commitment to be moral can be aided through moral philosophy, which helps us decide what counts as immoral, and find ways to motivate ourselves to be a better person. See the link below for more information.

This post is availale as an ebook here:

Comments»

1. 神の一手 - September 9, 2010

a lot of the time it is just a crime of opportunity. Oh look, cards that no one is looking at…mine now.

2. James - September 9, 2010

Yes, I have also had opportunities to take things due to the thoughtlessness of others, like when a tournament organizer doesn’t know you were already given prizes. I guess the main thought here is that you probably won’t get caught.

3. doctor - October 29, 2010

in your example of the tourny organizer giving away prizes without the knowledge that you have already received them, i would not be all that reluctant to take them. after all, wizards and store owners make enough money that they would easily overlook the absence of some packs. true, but you also did not steal them and (though you did not earn those packs) and as long as another individual has not opened them, no emotional bond is really established with the product inside. mistakes are a reality of the business world, and if i, by no malicious effort of my own, receive a prize that would have gone to someone else who worked equally hard (or in this case, not at all), then no harm done.

however, i would never steal someone’s constructed deck, or draft deck, or any cards previously owned by another individual. for example, companies have an enormous amount of resources to compensate for product losses, and honestly, at a production level, jace tms is not inherently more valuable than runeclaw bears. the format environments and the players within them, especially the tournament scene and those who follow it, as well as supply and demand realities, determine pricing of cards, and if people think jace is worth 90$ and sells, heck, good business for wizards. However, stealing from an individual is personal. No matter the method of obtaining the cards for a particular deck, for each has its own pleasures, the fact remains that building a deck, while possibly the funnest part about magic, is also the most laborious. A finished deck represents the ingenuity of its builder, and stealing it not only means stealing someone’s ideas (which is repulsive to me) but also actually devalues the thief himself. To steal a luxury such as cards means to admit defeat…indeed, to admit that regardless of opportunity, you will never be able to express with your own mind the creativity the item represents, and are a lesser being for it.

/doctoral thesis on the nature of stealing magic cards

4. James - October 30, 2010

doctor,

I agree that taking extra cards from a touranment organizer is not as wrong as stealing usually is. However, my automatic response is to be honest and “look out for” the interests of others. I think this is the right response. I did some “soul searching” to decide if I should be less altruistic but decided that it is the right way to go, in part, because tournament organizers don’t make a ton of money and our “negative” actions can have unforeseen consequences.

This sort of reasoning must be embraced if we are going to admit some political and environmental responsibility. Our political and environmental duties are based on some sort of “group responsibility.” If people do their duties, then there are no problems; but if people pollute and don’t participate in elections, then there can be negative consequences. Group responsibility is not the same thing as personal responsibility because the needs that must be met are “spread out.” Everyone can contribute differently. At the same time we shouldn’t excuse ourselves entirely from being part of a civilization and having some role within it.

Some of our group responsibility is based on our personal capacities and personal ability to contribute. A poor person should worry less than a rich person about “giving to the poor,” for example.

5. doctor - November 2, 2010

James,

I understand your allusions and examples, but they seem to advocate an attitude of altruism that is rather deadly in a society such as ours, which emphasizes the individual rather than the collective community.

Politically and environmentally, individual actions has little effect in our society for non-elites. The electoral college and rampant voter fraud (as well as general political intrigue i.e., earmarks, congress seat bargaining, etc) makes sure that social elites, not the majority of citizens, ultimately control the political environment.

Environmentally, our governments already, at the local, state, and federal level, regulate a standard of respect for the places we live. Community service is nice on a resume, but I see no reason to shell out more tax dollars.

Plus, we’re already obligated by law to give to the poor. Welfare, medicaid, etc, are each programs we support through our federal taxes, regardless of choice, and our current taxation system already ensures that individuals under a certain pay-grade contribute little to nothing at all. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, as paying within one’s means only makes sense, but your argument seems inherently flawed in that the social justice youre advocating as a necessary good in our society is already a necessary evil of living in the United States. In other words, the government, at many levels, already enforces many social programs necessary to maintaining capitalist society.

6. James - November 2, 2010

doctor,

I don’t think altruism is “deadly.” A person should look out for their own needs, but other people matter too. Someone could easily steal from others using ebay and paypal and some people have done that to me. I have an ebay business and I don’t appreciate people stealing hundreds of dollars from me. Stealing is wrong, even when it is against a business.

I suppose that “mistakes” made by a company for your advantage isn’t quite the same thing as stealing, but I know from personal experience that such “mistakes” should be corrected rather than enjoyed by the consumer. I am not a powerful corporation and when people enjoy mistakes I make it does effect me to a very high extent. There is no guarantee that your “tournament organizer” will not face similar difficulties and be harmed by your actions.

It’s a good thing that Magic is profitable and we should want to keep it that way. Once it is no longer profitable it will be much harder to find a good tournament organizer and the company will have no reason to keep up quality work.

You say, “Politically and environmentally, individual actions has little effect in our society for non-elites.”

Actually it has a very important effect. When workers go on strike, it can cause a company to lose a lot of money. When people vote in certain ways that also has a strong effect.

If you want to say that I as a single person have little effect, you might be right, but I never said I did. I was advocating group responsibility. As a member of a group I have some responsibility, even if it is negligible. If no one acts responsibly, then you might find out that attitude will destroy the environment. We all contribute to the world at least to some extent. We can’t rationalize acting however we please just because we are one person in a world full of billions of people.

You say “our current taxation system already ensures that individuals under a certain pay-grade contribute little to nothing at all.”

I don’t know how this is relevant to my argument, but it sounds like you are saying that there are a bunch of no good free loaders getting off easy. Sounds like nothing more than propaganda. I think a lot of rich people are free loaders. Helping the poor doesn’t necessarily “make people lazy.”

You say, “Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, as paying within one’s means only makes sense, but your argument seems inherently flawed in that the social justice youre advocating as a necessary good in our society is already a necessary evil of living in the United States.”

I don’t understand what you are saying here.

You then say, “the government, at many levels, already enforces many social programs necessary to maintaining capitalist society.”

Maintaining capitalist society (as we do) isn’t good enough. The poor need more help than they get. Even if it was enough, I don’t know how it relates to my argument.

Let’s say a child is drowning in a shallow pool of water and you can save the child’s life at little cost to yourself. I think you would agree that you should help the child. That’s altruism. We need people to be willing to be altruistic or very bad things will happen. A bunch of people walking past a woman being raped on the street while doing nothing about it is horrific.

7. doctor - November 2, 2010

James,

You acknowledge that a single person does not have the capacity to greatly affect society justly. However you seem to have a difficult time accept the opposite argument, i.e., unjust actions at the level of the individual have an equally minute impact on society. I never mentioned nor discussed group responsibility, though I was always aware it was one of your original arguments.

The bit about taxation grades was nothing more than the truth. Poor people in this country pay little to no taxes while the wealthy pay the most. That is not saying that poor people are free-loaders…its simply reinforcing what you said before, that people pay within their means. Poor people pay very little, rich people pay a lot. How you could interpret that as propaganda is beyond my understanding.

I question the original premise of your argument and this thread…that someone did indeed steal your cards. How do you know that to be true? You do not, and likely never will. And then, you assume you’re right, and when someone says you should be more careful, you say that its not your responsibility and that taking that extra step to be more careful will ruin your enjoyment of the game. This is a rather arrogant, uncreative, and honestly childish way of displacing blame.

You cite how everyone should be looking out for others, and that will improve society.

Well, that’s pretty obvious.

However, you continually fail to recognize that you live in a society where people either:

1. make mistakes (i.e., a certain someone losing his magic cards)

2. steal things (if indeed someone stole them and you have the evidence to prove it)

Considering that you DON’T know for sure if someone actually stole your property, you should probably be fair to those around you and at least entertain the possibility that you made a mistake and that there was no malicious intent involved.

In fact, I myself use a planar chaos fat pack box to store an assortment of cards well worth over 250$. One is a standard b/w control deck thats worth around 150$ or more. The fact is, it is not that hard to keep an eye on your things. For all this social responsibility you preach, it seems to me that it would have been a lot simpler and a more effective use of your time to just keep track of your cards.

Yeah, that means entertaining the idea that your cards may get stolen or lost…but so what? Thats never stopped me from having fun playing magic. The world is not a utopia nor will it ever be, and especially not because someone lost his magic cards in a busy store. Recognize the world for what it is and if you care that much about your belongings, realize that a little pessimism -gasp- is well worth the investment.

And I don’t need to analyze some depressing analogy which has little to do with someone losing playing cards in order to understand the difference between right and wrong. Losing your magic cards is a self-defeating negligence. If you have evidence to prove that they were stolen, file a complaint with your local police or civil court. Otherwise, complaining about it seems fruitless.