“I went into Woolworths where I pinched a bottle of talc and a Twix […] I wouldn’t take a book though, or rather, I would from Woolworths, if they had any, but I wouldn’t from a bookshop, not unless I was desperate.”
There’s a lot of dystopic settings in SF/F that show how morality goes out the window in extreme situations. I could have taken any of them as an example. But I think this hits much closer to home, and it shows degrees both in when we’re willing to steal and who we’re willing to steal from. It’s very easy to be moral when you have a decent steady income. I buy every book I read*, because I can and I know others can’t. If I was unable to buy the books I would still read them somehow, and hope that someone in a better position than me could buy them to make up the difference. A lot of us are good simply because we can afford to be.
The solution to this is fairly obvious – to create better people, create more wealth. Scientific and economic progress doesn’t just make us better off, it makes us better people. In the aggregate, the researchers at Bell Labs have done more to make the world a better place than any prophet.
* When possible. Some aren’t available