If a rich person has something you need, you should take it. And if a big corporation has something you want, you should steal it. Instead of paying retail prices when you go to a chain store, just don’t pay.
Having money means defining right and wrong. Under capitalism, property is defined by those with the most dollars. Historically you could go to prison for “stealing” a slave or letting them liberate themselves. Human beings were property until a shift in values and a bloody civil war decided they weren’t. Isn’t it possible that what is considered private property today will be rendered illegitimate by future generations? And why wait?
Change comes about when those in power feel scared: when they feel that conceding to the public interest is the only way to maintain their status. Charity may build a few hospital wings, but fear builds a universal health care system. If you want to improve your life, start thinking outside the ballot box and the system the rich created and the values it teaches. Start thinking about getting what is yours.
It’s easy to steal back your money from the rich. You probably do it all the time. Ever buy a movie on iTunes instead of downloading it for free on The Pirate Bay? Yeah, keep not doing that. Ashton Kutcher will be just fine, unfortunately. Send some money to a janitor at Universal Studios if you really feel bad about it.
If you really want to scare the rich while enriching yourself, you’ll eventually want to advance from stealing bogus “intellectual” property to actual, in-real-life stealing. At a big-box retailer and feeling a little bold? Grab what you can and run out the door. No minimum wage employee really wants to chase you—they’re more likely to steal from their workplace than anyone else is. They have no right to detain you once you reach the great outdoors either. You should probably have a friend waiting in a car.
Like most things in life, the key to getting away with something you are not supposed to be doing is acting like you are supposed to be doing it. If you act suspiciously, people are going to get suspicious, so please don’t do the whole, I’m-doing-something-shady, glance-over-the-shoulder thing you see potheads do at music fests. Be cool.
Find a store with a self-checkout line to build your confidence. If management wants to replace the working class with computers that maybe aren’t quite as good at protecting company property, make them pay for it. Yeah, scan a few items—but don’t scan a few more. Nonchalantly pass your items a bit too high over the scanner and into your brand-new backpack. Oh, did that barcode not register? Guess we’ll never know.
Everyone hates their boss. Despite all those empty words about the office as a “team,” we all know there’s a hierarchy: The workplace is a coercive environment, and you’re not the one doing the coercing. You are not there because you want to be there, but because the alternative is impoverishment, a fact your boss knows as well as you. No matter how cool the guy or gal in charge, they can ruin your life as soon it becomes convenient. The company your labor helped build could dismiss you any day now.
Besides the constant risk of dismissal, we all know that there’s nothing “fair” about work; those who do the most of it are never the ones to reap most of its benefits, and that careerists who say what those in charge want to hear fare better than the ones who tell those in charge the truth.
Collective action is the ideal, but individual direct actions aren’t without merit, least of all to the individuals in question. You can always lift office supplies at the same time you try to organize fellow office workers.
Consider working less. Not working fewer hours (you get paid for those), but expending less effort. Slow down, speed racer. Worker productivity is not a good thing in the context of capitalism and it should raise a few red flags that those most invested in increasing it are the idle rich. They want you to work harder so they can pay you less. Indeed, Americans are already working harder than ever, the productivity of the average employee increasing more than 80 percent in the last 25 years. That increase in productivity has created an amazing amount of wealth, just not for those who produced it. Don’t feel lousy about taking some of it back from those who took it from you.
There is $118 trillion of wealth in the United States alone, or about $375,000 per American. For every homeless person in the country, there are 28 empty homes waiting for them right now. Laws and culture deny them a roof over their head, not a dearth of roofs. It is our legal system that funnels a disproportionate amount of wealth to a small handful of people, not the benevolent hand of a just and caring god.
This is a fantastic essay. Also, I have done several of these things and continue to encourage others to do the same.