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I agree with both you and parent. People are uncomfortably inconsistent. If a certain rule benefits them then they'll favor it ... right until the rule becomes a problem for them or favors their adversary. Normally, I see this when people talk about their politics.

On the other hand, Amazon has an unbelievable amount of power. And I think things would be a lot better if we as a society applied the spider-man rule. With great power. If a small mom and pop makes this sort of mistake, then I'm all for them correcting it and not giving away $13K equipment for $100. Maybe they were doing it maliciously, but because of how small they are the scope of their malice can only affect a small number of people. On the other hand, Amazon has the power of a first world nation state. If they make a mistake, innocently or maliciously, then the scope can affect a lot of people. Yeah, you messed up Amazon. Don't export the cost of failure onto people without the power to fight it. Pay for it yourself with your considerable resources and then resolve the issue with your considerable resources such that you don't make the mistake again.

EDIT: Mom and pop might not have the resources to cover their mistake AND they might not have the resources to reasonably prevent it from happening again. And because of their lack of resources they are also on a level playing field with their customers. So if their customers feel that what was done to them was wrong, then they can reasonably challenge mom and pop in court. On the other hand, if Amazon decides that their customers are going to lose in court, then their customers are going to lose in court.




Do you make a distinction between stealing from a rich person versus a poor person?


I haven't really thought about it in those terms. But YES it turns out I do make a distinction.

The only reason I called the police on the guy who robbed me at gunpoint was because I was concerned that he might also steal from someone who couldn't stand to lose their money AND because he was using lethal force to steal money.

I didn't really enjoy the few weeks of stress that I got from being mugged. But I otherwise didn't hold it against him. He was much more polite than a person with a gun has to be. And I could afford gas at $4 a gallon (as it was at the time) where he couldn't (credit cards showed him immediately going an filling up at a gas station).

If a rich guy had mugged me, I think I would have been a bit more upset about the experience.


Hmm, I was mugged once in Philly, it was nighttime and I was returning back from uni. It wasn't particularly traumatic since it happened so quickly. I went to report it and as I was waiting, there were other people in line with gunshot injuries and people in knife fights and one lady whose boyfriend had stabbed her little dog and other crazy stuff and I was like.. you guys need the police's resources way way more than I do, so I just left w/o reporting.

But I guess the point I was making was that if stealing or taking advantage or someones misfortune is morally wrong in one context, then I don't quite see a principled way out of it, other than layering an assumption-ridden argument about Amazon being bad and therefore deserving of this. As is typical in most corporate environments some engineer/pm/sales dude is probably going to end up being the fall guy. IMHO the only way to "stick it" to Amazon and come out on the moral high-ground is to stop using them. There is a time for civil disobedience, but it is possible for most consumers to avoid shopping with them.


I think if you had actually experienced both situations you would be less shaken by the robbery from a rich person because you might have had less confidence that they would actually shoot you.

This doesn't change the post hoc moral reasoning, but it night have incurred less impact on you.


I'm not sure which point you're trying to make, but I would feel extremely uncomfortable being robbed at gunpoint by a person I knew to be "rich". A rich person has much better odds of getting away with it, or receiving reduced punishment. Also, the rich person has no material need to threaten me at gunpoint, so they have clearly become unhinged and are past the point of rational decision making. A poor person who robs you at gun point just wants your money, they're not actually hoping to shoot people.


Do you make a distinction between stealing a pack of gum and stealing a car?


Depends on the exact nature of your question. If you want to argue on simple moral terms, both are wrong because stealing is stealing. But the "wrongness" of each action can be debated so obviously under most legal systems the punishment is not identical - and that is a related but a different conversation. But note that the punishment for stealing, in most cases, is not dependent on the personal wealth of a victim. I say most because I'm sure some pedant is going to find the odd outlier.


I would, and I imagine most people would. I don't steal, certainly, and would never unless absolutely forced to do so, but if I had to I would definitely chose to steal from someone for whom it would make less of a difference.




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