Should you pay for stuff when your money's no good?

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From The Subtle Knife, somewhere in a parallel universe, two children stop in an abandoned store:
Before they left, Will dropped some coins in the till behind the counter.

"What you doing?" she said.

"Paying. You have to pay for things. Don't they pay for things in your world?"

"They don't in this one! I bet those other kids en't paying for a thing."

"They might not, but I do."

This is obviously intended to be an indication of maturity--paying for what you take--but I'm not so sure. Will and Lyra are in a parallel universe which uses entirely different currency. Will is from our universe and our fiat money is totally different from whatever they use. From the perspective of the people who own the store, they might as well just be stealing whatever they take.

But of course, that's not the view from the perspective of the children: they have a limited amount of funds and so paying for their "purchases" constrains their ability to just take anything they want. Obviously, if there are other people who are going to be coming by (the owners or other looters), this is a good thing. But if nobody else is around, then this constraint just makes the situation worse. And, of course, if the economy has totally broken down, there's no way for them to earn more money, which is really inefficient if they're the only people around.

Unfortunately, real maturity often means that the right decisions aren't particularly clear.

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