Finders Keepers

Discussions that deal with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: How should one live? What is right (or wrong) to do? What is the best way for humans to live?

Finders Keepers

Postby Gloominary on September 23rd, 2017, 7:45 pm 

Today I found some change on the ground, dozens of nickels and dimes.
The change was lined up in a long row, as if someone was walking or riding a bike carrying it in a bag with a hole in it, and the change slid out a few at a time.
I gathered up the change and later on redeemed it for 15 dollars.
As I was gathering it up, it kind of felt like I was following a trail of breadcrumbs, like maybe there was a trap waiting around the corner, but fortunately for me, there was none.

Later on me and my roommate were having a discussion about the rightness/wrongness of what I did.
Should I have taken it, or should I have waited a while to see if the person who dropped it came back?
My roommate said they might be poor, but I'm poor too.
I said if they really wanted it, they would've picked it up and put it in their pockets like I did.
I don't know how someone could've not noticed that much change falling on the ground, unless they were def, dumb and blind, or they were riding their bike really fast with their headphones cranked, which they shouldn't be doing anyway, and the bag was attached to the back of their bike, which's really dumb.

Anyway, it's not a big deal, it's only 15 dollars, but more to the point, what should we do in general?
If someone loses something, at some point does it become up for grabs, and if so, where do we draw the line?
After all, althou I could've waited a little while, someone would've did what I did sooner than later.
And what if they never come back for it, are we to let good things go to waste?
I mean if you find a hundred dollar bill on the ground, what are you gonna do, contact the lost and found?
There's no way of proving who it 'belongs' to, it's not like there's someone's name on it, or it's not like someone could describe intimate details about it, it's a bill, they're all the same.

And what about other sorts of things, like real estate, say some rich tycoon buys a building he's never even seen before and doesn't do anything with for a decade.
Is it still his, just, cause he bought it?
Should we let a perfectly good building go to waste when someone who needs it a hell of a lot more than him could be using it?

In hunter-gatherer or subsistence agricultural societies, there's no big government to permit a few to own millions of times more than they need or (personally) use, monopolizing buildings/land, so in that sense, capitalism is very unnatural.
Perhaps there ought to be a limit to how much stuff people can own.
And that's not even communism, socialism or any ism, it's just allowing nature to take its course.

Capitalists and libertarians like to call themselves minarchists, but I can think of a government that's many times more minarchist than that.
I say if you couldn't possibly personally use something, than government shouldn't protect it for you, it should be returned to the people and/or to nature.
This would reduce the amount of private property there is in the world, thereby reducing the size of government.
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby zetreque on September 23rd, 2017, 8:12 pm 

In a reality, a person only owns as much as he/she can personally protect.

I think of it kind of like something is only worth as much as another person is willing to pay for it.

We are dependent on one another and despite laws in our society, people can only own or have a worth for as much as other people are willing to let that person get away with. If people were smart they would not let the mega rich and mega corporations dominate them. For some odd reason people have bought into this societal system where we allow the super rich and protected private property and people to own our shared resources. This is because human kind is greedy and think that if they allow this system, they can somehow get lucky and be one of the handful of people at the top.

It often puzzles me how most of the population let themselves be ruled by a small handful of people. Most of the richest people in the world got rich off of our shared natural resources. Timber, mineral ore, water, air...

Going back to my statement.
In a reality, a person only owns as much as he/she can personally protect. I meant that as in what a person can have within arms reach and fight for but laws allow a person to "personally" protect well beyond what they have in their immediate presence. Technology has also been a game changer in security systems to protect things.

Your question about lost and found is getting at and might have an answer that lies in if you believe in the system of private property or not.

That's just some of my thoughts on this right now...
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby Braininvat on September 24th, 2017, 10:10 am 

I think, ethically, one opts for the "least harm" scenario. Since there is a real possibsility the money dropper might retrace their path when they realize what has happened, it seems best to just leave the money alone. It is not your place to judge the character or competence of the person who has dropped the money - you actually have minimal information on them or their situation...or their level of need of the money compared to you. Absent any of that information, it seems best to give them the optimal chance to find their lost cash. It also seems to me that once a person has established a situation in which they deem it "okay" to steal, there will be further rationalizing in the future on how one might take advantage of someone else's mistake or bad luck. I think a genuine commitment to not seeking gain from the carelessness or mistakes of others will establish a good and honest pattern in your life. I think it's best to cut a wide path around any possibility that you may be stealing from an impoverished person. Put yourself in a similar situation: what if you dropped your wallet and it had money you really needed to get through the month? Would you prefer I take it and remove the money....or just leave it where it lay? Consider Kant's categorical imperative to be a useful guide here.
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby BadgerJelly on September 24th, 2017, 10:12 am 

Sounds like a descaled version of Crime and Punishment :D
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby Braininvat on September 24th, 2017, 11:52 am 

Heh! Good point, too. If you are considering the ethics of an act which, scaled up, would be clearly unethical, then that should indicate that it's probably unethical, too, even if the consequences seem slight at the smaller scale.

Unless other factors emerge. E.g. just taking one quarter in order to use a payphone (no cellphones about) to make an urgent call in which you impart life-saving information or prevent a serious crime or something along that line.
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby doogles on September 24th, 2017, 10:21 pm 

In the area in which I live, we take any found property to the local police station which acts as a lost property office. It's automatically up to a loser to enquire there in the first instance. I think if the property is not claimed after several months, the finder has first option to claim it.
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Re: Finders Keepers

Postby zetreque on September 24th, 2017, 10:24 pm 

doogles » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:21 pm wrote:In the area in which I live, we take any found property to the local police station which acts as a lost property office. It's automatically up to a loser to enquire there in the first instance. I think if the property is not claimed after several months, the finder has first option to claim it.


I went through a similar process several times where I used to work. The time limit was 90 days. It's a good system as long as you can trust the people holding the items in lost and found or the people that lost their item can even find the lost and found department since they are often not marketed.

Craigslist also has a section for lost and found items.
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