In Italy, 28.3 percent of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2014.*
Yet, in a recent Italian court case, a homeless man who had been convicted of stealing a few euros worth of cheese and sausage was eventually acquitted on the principle that “No one is expected to do the impossible.”
“The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need,” and therefore the theft “does not constitute a crime,” the appellate court wrote in its decision, which was reported on Monday by the Italian news agency ANSA. . .
“For the supreme judges, the right to survival has prevailed over the right to property,” Massimo Gramellini, an editor at La Stampa, a newspaper based in Turin, wrote in an opinion column. “In America that would be blasphemy. And here as well, some conformists will talk about a legitimation of proletarian expropriation.”
That’s right. In the United States, the homeless people who steal merchandise are convicted and sent to jail—while the members of the economic elite who created the poverty in the first place demand of the poor that they do the impossible.
*That’s less than the percentage of the U.S. population (pdf) with incomes below twice the official poverty level (33.4 percent) in 2014.