Finders keepers

There is a thin line between right and wrong. Most of us have a conscience that will put up a flag if we do something ethically wrong. It causes us to feel guilty because what we’re doing isn’t right according to our standards. But what you might consider wrong, someone else might consider right. There’s that gray area where both answers have the potential to be correct.

A friend of mine wanted my opinion regarding a moral issue. He wanted to know if it was considered stealing if you took a bike that was just sitting there. This bike has been sitting at a bike rack for three weeks. There is nothing to prevent the bike from being taken because there’s no lock. Day after day, the bike sits there, untouched. There’s snow covering the seat and there hasn’t been anyone to remove the snow. If you decided to take the bike one day, would you be stealing it?

The way I see it, it would constitute as stealing because that bike once belonged to someone. Someone bought it from a store, assembled it and used it to get to where ever the bike rack is. Even though there isn’t a lock to keep it from being stolen, someone put it there in the first place. If you were to take something that belonged to someone else, you’re stealing. But anyone that leaves a bike unlocked and unattended is probably asking someone to steal their bike.

Let’s say we change the scenario a bit. What if the bike was in the middle of nowhere, just lying there on the ground? Finders keepers, right? Given the circumstances, I think so. But the circumstances are similar to that of the bike on the rack. Even though it’s just sitting there and asking to be taken, taking the bike would be stealing. But if the bike was in the middle of no where, it’s not stealing? This is where the situation enters that gray area when nothing matters. If you take the bike, it’s not stealing because there’s no one else there to claim it.

But what if we make a little change and instead of a bike, we find money, nothing too large of an amount. Let’s say we find $10 in the middle of the street. If you pick it up and stick it in your pocket, would that be considered stealing? First of all, it’s not your money to begin with. Just like the bike, the money was just sitting there asking to be taken. There’s possibly no way to find out who dropped it. I highly doubt someone would leave a $10 bill just sitting around and hope that it’ll still be there when they get back. In case, picking up the $10 and putting it in your pocket wouldn’t be considered stealing because there’s no one to claim it.

In order for you to steal something, you would have to take it without the owner’s consent. A bike park at a rack without a lock is pretty much the owner’s way of saying, “Please take my bike.” So the term “stealing” has a fairly broad definition. I believe that if the bike is sitting there at a public rack and doesn’t have a lock on it and you take it, you’re stealing the bike. But if the bike is in the middle of no where and you take it, then you’re not actually stealing.

So, I guess the difference between stealing something and finding something depends on how the act was performed. If you’re just walking around and you find $10 on the ground, it’s not that hard to just bend over and pick it up. If you see a bike parked at a rack and it doesn’t have a lock, it doesn’t take much to take it. If you had to use excess force to obtain something then maybe it would be considered stealing. But no matter what argument you come up with to categorize something as “stealing” there’s bound to be something that will defeat it.

No matter what your definition of stealing is, I just hope that you use enough common sense to recognize whether you’re committing a crime or not. Taking something that doesn’t belong you to is morally wrong no matter how you look at it. As the saying goes, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” You’re the finder so you keep it but the person who lost it has no rights to claim it.