There are then 3 scenarios we need to consider in comparing a “thief” with an “honest producer.”
First, there is Crusoe philosophy. A man alone face-to-face with nature cannot be a thief. If he insists on stealing (from who?), he will die, plain and simple.
Third, there is full-blown society and market. Theft is deterred with threats of punishment. Now punishments work like this. Pick an arbitrary number of years in prison, say, 5. We ask Jones, is 5 years enough to deter you and redirect your actions into something more productive? If yes, then decrease punishment by 1 year. Ask the same question. Rinse and repeat. Upon “no,” we have found the minimal sufficient penalty.
If the answer is no, then, on the contrary, increase punishment by 1 year. Keep the loop going until you hear “yes.” We have found the maximum necessary penalty.
Suppose that our thief is not deterred by anything. Society’s only recourse, then, is to kill him (or imprison him for life which we have to admit is similar).
Second, there is the case of numerous isolated individuals who, as before, form no permanent social bonds but pass as ships at night. Jones who oppresses and loots Smith does not abide by the Golden Rule. He would object on moral grounds if Robinson did it to him.
The modified Golden Rule here is: “Your treatment of others shows how you yourself agree to be treated.”
Otherwise, we ask, what will happen if Smith resists? Clearly, Jones will try to beat him up to keep him in line. Suppose Smith refuses to be a slave and continues fighting. Jones would have to kill him. Otherwise, what sort of wussy parasite is he, if he backs down when facing overt non-compliance or disobedience? In other words, Jones is willing to kill to continue stealing. But now the modified Golden Rule can be used. By his actions, Jones shuts his own mouth, unable to protest Robinson’s killing him if he resists. Say, Robinson is Jones’ mafia boss who demands that Jones kick some loot “upstairs.” Jones is now as much a slave to Robinson as Smith is to Jones. Jones himself is now always under threat of being killed, if he simply minds his business and peacefully seeks his own happiness.
In this second case, it seems extremely intuitive that under moderate scarcity and so on, seeking one’s own happiness without harming others is permissible and a natural right, and seeking happiness by hurting others is morally wrong and contrary to natural duty.
We see that in all 3 cases, the thief is affirming only his desire or passive agreement to die. Again, the definition of human nature includes into itself the desire to preserve oneself in existence, the desire to live. Hence, thievery and parasitism are unnatural.