TSNS – Thou Shalt Not Steal – Sounds like a pretty simple concept, doesn’t it?
But since TSNS is ‘The One Commandment’ of Veresapiens, let’s explore it a little bit, and see how it manages to cover behavior from petty theft to slavery and murder.
To define what it means ‘to steal’, we first have to define what it means ‘to own’.
So, what is ‘ownership’?
At the most basic level, ownership is not a financial term. To own is to control.
If you own something, you can make all of the decisions about it, yourself. You can do whatever you wish with something you own. You can use it, give it away, destroy it, whatever. Totally up to you.
If you need permission to do something with it, you don’t own it… at least not fully.
Suppose you ‘own’ a house. And suppose you bought the house with a home loan. And, finally, suppose that you rent out the house to tenants.
Financially, you own the house. You are the homeowner. However, your ownership rights have been voluntarily limited, as detailed in your mortgage loan agreement with the bank and your lease agreement with the renters.
For example, you own the house, but you cannot use the house as your home. You have agreed to give all of the normal residential usage rights (control) to your renters for the duration of their lease.
Also, you own the house, but you cannot tear it down and turn your property into a wildlife sanctuary. You have agreed to give up some rights (control), relative to the physical building, to the bank for the duration of the mortgage loan.
The important point, here, is that control is not all-or-nothing. And therefore, ownership is not all-or-nothing. Some portion of your ownership can be given or traded away.
And some portion of your ownership can be taken away. (And we have thereby arrived at the meaning of ‘stealing’.)
If someone takes away some or all of your control over your possession, against your will, they are stealing from you.
Even if, rather than physically taking, they simply prevent you from exercising your full control over your possession through threats or force, they are still stealing from you. Because, even if they are not taking your possession, they are taking away your ownership (control).
Now, suppose your life belongs to you. If you own your life, you must control your life.
Anyone who prevents you from exercising full control over your own life is stealing (taking) your life.
At a minimum, they are stealing your freedom. In the extreme, this can escalate to slavery or murder.