Social Question

Kraigmo's avatar

You see a catalytic-converter thief under your jacked-up car. You shake the car and kick the jack, killing the thief. Are you a hero, or a murderer?

Asked by Kraigmo (9005points) February 19th, 2021
28 responses
“Great Question” (8points)

There’s a nationwide epidemic of catalytic converter thefts.
Such thefts take about 45 seconds to accomplish (or about 90 seconds, including jack-up time).
If you confront the thief, he’ll have an electric saw in his hand.
This is 100%... because such a saw is integral to his operation.

So…. if you shake the car and kick the jack out, crushing the guy… did you just do something great? Or something awful?

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SQUEEKY2's avatar

They will probably charge you with man slaughter ,BUT!! Pretend you didn’t notice the idiot under the car jump in and drive away thus killing the slime you might get away with it.

filmfann's avatar

Is the value of your caralytic converter greater than a human life?
I own a handgun, and I pray I never have to use it.

hello321's avatar

A murderer.

gorillapaws's avatar

Murder. Christ, I would hope that would be painfully obvious to anyone.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You are probably a murderer. But you may be both. Either way, your life would be considerably less difficult had you both not suffered the misfortune of catching him in the act.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Hero. He took the risk when he tried to steal from you.

hello321's avatar

This might be my favorite question in some time. It’s really putting people’s ethics and politics out in the open.

janbb's avatar

It’s like asking if you’re Jean Valjean or Javert.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@hello321 – interesting comment. I don’t see it having to do with politics at all. More a sense of right and wrong / justice.

Crime is, boiled down, a business proposition. You steal something in order to have economic benefit. Any business takes risks – Sony makes TV sets with the risk that they won’t sell. Publishers select book to publish with the risk that they may lose money on a dud. Movie studios make dozens of films a year knowing that some number will be flops.

Same with criminals. They see great reward in stealing catalytic converters for the metals inside. That’s their incentive, otherwise why do it? But what are the risks for them?

1) being caught and going to jail
2) having the car fall on them and getting crushed

It’s a calculated risk. That simple. In the OP’s question, the business risk didn’t work out. It sucks to be the loser. Too bad.

Do I have an ethical reason to make the criminal’s life easier and return him a profit? I don’t think so.

hello321's avatar

^ This really illustrates my point. Removed from the distractions of bogeymen like Trump, we can see where people really stand.

Smashley's avatar


3) A angry person might murder them where they stand.

This is ridiculous. You discount the humanity of the criminal, and view their inalienable rights as less important than their choice to steal. You’ve created a rule in which the protections of society only apply as long you as aren’t perceived, by the citizenry, to be breaking the rules. You give a complete pass to the person who decides to murder as a response to property theft, and speak with a glibness that sickens. It is never open season on humans, no matter what you imagine they are doing.

By your logic, I could run a texter off the road, because they shouldn’t have been risking everyone else’s life. If a person seems to be drunk and headed for his car, I can mug and curb stomp him. And I’ll be a hero, too. Does this apply to my perceptions of tax evasion too? Id love to go hunt me some corporate thieves… Didn’t ask me for ID with my credit card? Fuck, you gotta die.

There is no reason, proportion, compassion, or civilization to your answer,

kritiper's avatar

A murderer. Unless the thief pulls a gun on you.

Inspired_2write's avatar

He is an idiot that should call the police to do their job.
Video tape the perpetrator in the act to stop him from further stunts in the future.
Your insurance will fix your car.

mazingerz88's avatar

Murderer! Jeez.

Hope this question wasn’t posted as this situation unfolded in real time. lol

Zaku's avatar

You’re definitely not a hero, except to paranoid crime-obsessed maniacs.

You definitely killed someone over a minor theft.

No, they’re not going to kill you with their electric saw, unless you’re a maniac and try to kill them. They’re going to run away.

Thieves are sad insensitive obnoxious people willing to steal things from others. But people who kill thieves are sad insensitive killers willing to kill people to avoid having something be taken from them.

And in most places, rightly, that’s considered murder, legally, as well as morally.

There are probably some jurisdictions where the law lets you kill people to defend your property in some circumstances. And there are some people who would cheer that. But it’s a tragic mistake.

Yes, stealing is wrong, impacts innocent people in serious ways, and the thief screws themselves up and risks messing up their entire life, or dying.

But killing someone, yes “even” killing a thief, also impacts innocent people (e.g. the thief’s family) and screws up the killer, quite likely messing up their entire life, or getting themselves killed, and that can impact the lives of the killer’s family and friends too.

ragingloli's avatar

A murderer.
He is not an imminent threat to you, because he is under the car, so killing him is not self defence.
What this is, is that you have declared yourself judge, jury and executioner.
You judge that he is guilty of a crime, you know, from this question, that dropping the car on him will kill him, you decide that the punishment he deserves is death and you then perform the execution.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Murderer. Jesus fuck…

Kraigmo's avatar

@filmfann , Don’t you think some human lives are not worth more than a catalytic converter?
And if all human life were each just as valuable as the other, individually…. wouldn’t that make all wars, no matter what, actions of evil?

Yellowdog's avatar

Your catching him stealing from you will make him flee or at least stammer a bit.

I caught two guys breaking into my parents house when I lived there. They had a really stupid excuse for being there—they said they were looking for Home Depot and wanted directions,

Anyhow, they were trying to get in a window because they didn’t think anyone was home.
I showed them some scrap metal in my backyard that might have been worth a few hundred bucks and offered it to them. They declined and went about their way.

A year ;later, I was shot in a robbery but not by those two,

Zaku's avatar

@Kraigmo “Don’t you think some human lives are not worth more than a catalytic converter?”
– You didn’t ask me, but personally… I think do think some people might tend make the world better if they died right away. I wouldn’t frame it in terms of monetary value though. And I wouldn’t go around killing such people even if I were so convinced, because I understand things are so much more complicated than that. Every action has effects.

And if I compare someone who all I know is they steal catalytic converters, that is nowhere near enough for me to decide it’d be better if they were dead.

Someone who sees someone stealing a car part, and decides to kill them? That person I might think would make the world better by dying than by killing a thief… except I like to think almost all such people could learn not to think that way.

Moreover, killing someone isn’t just ending one life. It impacts many people around them, including the killer and the people who know the killer. The police will interview the car owner, and will almost certainly be able to discover if the car owner is the sort of person who would kill the thief under his car.

“And if all human life were each just as valuable as the other, individually…. wouldn’t that make all wars, no matter what, actions of evil?”
– It’s not so simple.
– But yes, from a certain point of view, such as one that values the impact on all the people affected by war, war is one of the greatest evils there is.
– From another point of view, sometimes the effects of not engaging in certain wars seems worse than the war itself.
– It’s not always an easy call, but usually most potential wars are very much best avoided.
– It’s a bit like this question. Oh look, some country has an evil leader? Should we kill them? Would we be “heroes”? Well, even if you think so, probably many other people will also be killed and/or their lives shattered, so probably not. Same thing as your thief, on a larger scale.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Why can’t you just pull out your phone and dial 911?

Yellowdog's avatar

BTW I didn’t answer the actual question. Yes, it would be murder. If you said it was an accident you could get off on manslaughter, but you would still be a murderer,

Would you be a hero? Not really. It was effortless and you took no risk.

Thieves meed a chance to change their behavior or improve their circumstances for which they justify their behavior. I certainly wouldn’t kill a thief or let one die in an accident. But it would be nice to catch one or have the police actually show up in time.

filmfann's avatar

@Kraigmo I don’t want to be responsible for that judgement.

Darth_Algar's avatar

How fucked in the head do you have to be to think that a little piece of material property is worth more than someone else’s life?

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Darth_Algar I think @Kraigmo is trying to start a discussion about morality. The problem is, they are making a problem out of something that shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

This reminds me of a game I used to play. It was a text-based game. Basically my character was in a rush to enter a room and he needed to find a way to open the door. If you typed “open door”, the game replied with something like “you tried to push the door but it just doesn’t work”. You could brainstorm any way you wanted to open the door, including kicking it, but all the solution you came up with just resulted in the character failing to open the door or dying. All the while the time was running out. It certainly made a really scary and thrilling experience… until you realized that you could just type “pull door” and the door just opened. I laughed so hard at that realization.

That is exactly how I feel about this question.

Yellowdog's avatar

If you are ever in a room with just a board, and the door won’t open, @Mimishu1995 , the solution is simple.

Break the board in two pieces. Two pieces make a whole, so you then just crawl out the hole.

(ok its funnier when it’s heard, not read).

Nomore_lockout's avatar

Book him Danno!

kritiper's avatar

If someone sees you, it’s murder. If no one sees you, it was an accident. Everybody knows you don’t crawl under a car with just a jack holding it up!

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