Heidelcast 18: Is It Okay To Steal (If The Minister Says It Is?)

A correspondent writes to about an Anglican minister who advised the poor, who are starving, who’ve somehow fallen through the extensive British social safety net, among his congregation, to shoplift rather than commit burglary. He asked them not to steal from small family businesses. He advised them not to take more than they need but it’s okay for folk to steal from large, multi-national businesses. This raises two questions, the first about theft and the second whether a minister has the authority to give such advice. This episode of the Heidelcast opens the mail and tackles this issue:

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  1. You’ve lived in Britain and know better than I do, but is it even possible in a British context to “fall through the safety net” with their social welfare system? I live in a state which has significantly tightened eligibility rules for a number of programs, and I’ve seen at least arguably legitimate cases of people “falling through the net” due to massive delays waiting for reviews of disability cases, but I find that very hard to believe in a British context.

    • It’s worth knowing that even though our welfare system is a good deal more comprehensive than I understand the American one to be, it is presently being pruned through a set of spending cuts which most British people (including almost all mainline British clergy) would view as pretty punitive. Lots of talk of unemployed and/or disabled people having to live on as little as £53 a week, which wouldn’t pay the rent and heating bills in most of the UK.

      Whether that’s actually happening or not is hard to tell but in some parts of the country where unemployment is pretty high I can imagine things being pretty tough.

      (For the sake of clarity, not tough enough to justify theft, at least not in my view.)

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