Listening to the radio this morning, I heard an expert on ethics say that some violation of people’s privacy might be justified for crimes against people, but is not justified for property crimes.
Every time I hear this distinction – that crimes against property are not as serious as crimes against people – I take umbrage.
A crime against my property is a crime against me.
Consider my car. I spent a considerable portion of my life earning the money that was required for me to buy my car.
If it’s a twenty-thousand dollar car and I earn sixty-thousand dollars per year after taxes, that car represents four months of my life, or approximately eighty-six work days. If some low-life torches my car after a hockey game, then they have destroyed the product of eighty-six days of my life. Eighty-six days that I’ll never get back.
Why is that time important? It’s important because those are days that I sacrificed a significant part of my freedom. I spent those days working under the direction of someone else for their benefit, not for my own.
An hour at work is not as unpleasant as an hour in jail, but it incurs the same human cost. It is an hour in which I was not free to sit on the beach, watch a movie, or ride my bicycle down a country lane.
So, the next time you tell me that theft, vandalism, or negligence wasn’t so bad because it only destroyed my property, don’t be surprised if I react as strongly as if my life span had been reduced by an equivalent amount. It has.