Should Looting be Legal?

In general the answer is no. But suppose you are sitting in New Orleans right now, your home has been destroyed and all the places that you might have normally gotten food (grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations) are all closed with no personel on hand to sell you food even if they had the means to do so.

Do you go into a damaged half standing grocery store and find what you need, or do you just hope to stumble across a random red cross vehicle bearing food? I suggest taking food from a grocery store thats likely going to have to throw away the food in a day or two anyhow in an emergency situation such as hurricane Katrina is not "looting" - at least not in the moralistic sense that current journalists are batting about the term.

Discussions of looting on msnbc and fox present all looting as if it represented the worst in human nature, and was reprehensible and greedy opportunism. Add to that a promise by the governor of mississippi that looting "will not be tolerated," and I begin to wonder why they are so quick to ignore the dynamics of an emergency situation. Thus far the looting has centered around clothing stores (speaking of things that might have been destroyed, it would suck right about now to not have clothing in the aftermath of katrina), jewelery stores (yeah thats pretty much opportunism), and grocery stores.

I'm not saying that the governor should declare it open season on taking anything from damaged stores and shops, but would it really hurt to perhaps ignore people who are seeking food in a grocery store with no electricity, or even someone who grabbed a few pairs of jeans from a smashed in store front?

I suspect the owners of said food, clothing, and perhaps even the jewelry are far less concerned about it than the police and reporters are.

Share this

This seems just an

This seems just an application of the common law principle of private necessity, in which the otherwise tortious conduct is excused for purposes of punitive damages but the defendant must still pay actual damages.

I know this isn't the reason

I know this isn't the reason looting is so vilified by the mainstream press, but looting removes PRICE as the rationing factor and in its place introduces elements such as "first come first served" and "might makes right" as rationing devices. However, if those are the only devices available, then yes, I'd rather the food were used (even if by those quicker or stronger) than have it all wasted.

I don't see why it's more

I don't see why it's more violent for a person to go into a store and take what's there than it is for a person who has money that was achieved by violent methods to go into the store and take what's there by handing over the money. I think one can give a good argument that looting isn't violence at all. In a sense, most of us are looters, or at any rate we are benefiting from others' looting.

I have seen the newscasts

I have seen the newscasts you are talking about and completely agree with you. People on these national news channels, particularly MSNBC and Fox, are acting very high and mighty - I wonder what they would do if they were in the situation. Then again, they are looking down on people who stayed anyway - yet their newspeople are running around in the same flooded waters and destruction.

I wonder what the police will do with all of the people that are being arrested for "looting"... there really are so many other things going on that absolutely need their attention.

Interestingly, while the

Interestingly, while the looters are condemned for for dealing with this catastrophe through such actions, the government agents who have been given permission to commandeer vehicles and confiscate private property at the emergency shelters are let off the hook.

I wouldn't call it looting

I wouldn't call it looting if you leave your name, address and phone number and a list of what you took, and then re-transmit that same info to the owner asap with the promise to pay.

To add to Stephan's point,

To add to Stephan's point, in the prelude to the hurricane, the Louisiana Attorney General issued a threat to criminally prosecute any business owner that engaged in "price gouging"--which Louisiana defines as charging higher prices after a hurricane then before without "reasonable" cause, as determined by the state. I have not heard the AG come out with a similarly strong threat against any looters.

If not for anti-price

If not for anti-price gouging laws those stores would be far more likely to remain open, which would make looting unnecessary.

Looting for food and other

Looting for food and other necessities might be defensible on an individual level, but it risks serious procedural problems - widespread violence and disrespect with future consequences. Today some milk and smokes from the corner store, tomorrow maybe some painkillers from that granny you beat down.

Obviously if someone in

Obviously if someone in charge (governor, police chief etc.) told everyone to go ahead and take whatever you need, there would be a big problem really fast - apparently there is a problem already without anyone saying that. I agree with the idea that looting is a slippery slope. However I don't think someone taking some food or clothing in the few days after a storm before relief efforts have fully gotten in, and before said food has spoiled, is going to cause that person to become addicted to a life of crime. Its not like we're these trained animals where something will snap in our brain once we've walked out of a store with a bottle of water that we didn't pay for that will start making us take anything from anyone we want.

The slippery slope occurs en mass when lots of opportunistic individuals realizing the limited capacity of law enforcement and the absense of owners decide they can do and take whatever they want. In other words its not previous acts where they took food that led to their actions but the absense of anyone who could meaningfully stop them, or ID the theives for later prosecution. This is the case everyday by the way, if lots of people decided to take whatever they wanted from stores all at the same time from many different locations, there would be little the police and owners could do. What I'm saying is to ignore the people who are going after essentials that they can't currently buy or easily get (once they can its a different story), and focus on getting those essentials there so that normal customs can be reestablished.

> "Should looting be

> "Should looting be legal?"

No.

If there is a small, tiny fraction whose near-starvation leads them to lift some food and water items, then I support their actions so long as they repay the store's owner (as John pointed out).

There is no excuse for the rest of them.

There is a major difference

There is a major difference between looting a good store for food and those seen walking off with 10 pairs of the latest Nikes. Owners of these properties should have the right to shoot anyone who is looting their property. As I said on my blog...you handle looters like you do zombies...shoot them in the head.:behead:

I can see the headlines now

I can see the headlines now when the leftist anarchists take over.

New Orleans Time Picayune.--
New Orleans police abandon rescue efforts as looting escalate

Louisiana Governor Matt-27 protests saying he is "just furious" about the police interference with poor redressing historical inequities. But urges looters to work peacefully, saying “Looting that produces a more equitable distribution of goods could be justified.”

Followed the next day By—“ Howling mob tars and feathers Louisiana Governor Matt-27
Gov. last seen swimming out of town.”

Dave- props for an almost

Dave-
props for an almost parodically even-handed and reasonable response. Up until your last sentence of course.

A looter is taking advantage of the inability of the owner/producer to make known his usual negotiating posture and thus the goods are available at a much cheaper price than usual.

but if his usual negotiating posture is immoral because of its historical origins, and instead is just preserved because of inequalities of power, then looting which takes advantage of this momentary lapse of power actually makes things more equitable (depending on who the beneficiaries are.)

The goods would also be available free to the taker of goods if he killed the owner, broke into the owner’s place of business, paid off a crooked cop, hired a member of the Mafia, or found the back door unlocked and walked in.

it's true, but the ones that involve violence and or a contribution to criminal organizations are immoral for other reasons. I do however recgonize that this looting argument would extend beyond catastrophes, of course. However, as I mentioned you have a power problem (you will probably go to jail) in that case which is why I would strategically advocate it under normal circumstances.

But if we are all looters, thus justifying all the crime by all people like Matt says, and the cops aren’t looking, then let’s get to work! I’m heading to the nearest liquor store .

all crime is not justified by this argument. However, if you accept the fact that many of these power relations are based on unjust historical occurences (or even unjust present occurences, like the forcible restructuring of 3rd world economies to make them service economies for the 1st world) then the argument gets more interesting. In that case, the holder of the good does not have absolute rights over them and a looting that produces a more equitable distribution of goods could be justified.

Incidentally, I hope it's obvious that this argument is mildly devil's advocate-ish, and that I'm not a looter myself and would probably wind up on the short end of the stick if people started taking the idea seriously. That doesn't make the argument wrong though- it may well be right.

Matt

No matt much of what we own

No matt much of what we own wasn't looted. I did not steal the money that I used to pay for my clothes and food. I worked damn hard at all sorts of unpleasant manual jobs for it. It was and is my money and so are the goods bought with it. Unless you're talking about some fundamental "looted from mother earth" crap?...

is he referring to the

is he referring to the well-known southern penchant for analingus?

Matt 27- " looting-- the

Matt 27- " looting-- the political radicalism I'm advocating, which acknowledges the fact that much of what we own was looted."

In capitalism there is a voluntary peaceful exchange of things of value based upon mutually agreed upon terms. Government used force to remove goods, services or money from one person and give it to another and is thus immoral. Or so they say.
A looter is taking advantage of the inability of the owner/producer to make known his usual negotiating posture and thus the goods are available at a much cheaper price than usual. In fact they are free. The goods would also be available free to the taker of goods if he killed the owner, broke into the owner’s place of business, paid off a crooked cop, hired a member of the Mafia, or found the back door unlocked and walked in. If it is wrong to obtain the goods in any of these ways it is wrong to obtain them by looting. But, as one looter caught on camera said “If looting was wrong the cops would be arresting me, But they aren’t so it’s OK.”—so the cops are the government and are basis of law, no internal compass is necessary. But if we are all looters, thus justifying all the crime by all people like Matt says, and the cops aren't looking, then let's get to work! I’m heading to the nearest liquor store .

Eh, the looting is what

Eh, the looting is what worrys me least- it's the "wrongful death" lawsuits I fear will be filed after a number of these looters die from food poisoning they suffered after eating the booty.

awww man everyone wants to

awww man everyone wants to talk pragmatic looting instead of the political radicalism I'm advocating, which acknowledges the fact that much of what we own was looted. Loot all you want people!

If I were a owner of a

If I were a owner of a grocery store in such a situation I would simply put up a board outside asking people to take whatever items they need as anyone I need to flee to seek shelter and food/grocery items are going to perish anyway. I will atleast get some good will and reputation in the process.

Dave, again pretty funny

Dave, again pretty funny right up until the end when you decide to take a strangely harsh turn. There's no reason I couldn't have been the hero of the town in your story.

Alternate ending: Governor

Alternate ending: Governor Matt reelected. Inaugural ball held. Silverware missing.

Emotional Children Looting

Emotional Children
Looting in Lousiana, gas rage in the heartland — Americans reveal themselves as petulant children, not as responsible adults.
...

nice

nice

Had the cops and troops in

Had the cops and troops in NO helped people evacuate with as much food and water/drink in the face of no supplies on the outside instead of putting profits before people (protecting business and money instead of saving people) putting themselves between people desperate for necessities and those necessities, a lot of the escalation in violence could've been avoided; "looters" wouldn't have turned to private residences or arming up as fast as they did. It was a matter of survival. I know some non-essentials looting occurred & non-survival shooting occurred, but, what they should've done from the git go was ignore the looting and put 100% into getting people and supplies out. Mayor Nagin said he'd commandeer vehicles to evacuate people; commandeering vehicles would've been a necessity needed to be done to ensure safety and survival, but, had he commandeered those vehicles, is he above the law, would he be charged with looting? It'd be quite different if he'd commandeered luxury vehicles to stash them in a garage for his personal use. I've always been one to bring the hammer down first & harder on the haves-and-want-mores than the have-nots-who-want-some, and if prosecutions start, there ought to be priorities & prosecuting the Mayor for not having a full evac plan, not following one, whatever the Governor has to atone for, on up to Bush taking his knocks for appointing an unqualified person to head FEMA & FEMA's poor response all ought to come before the little people are charged for looting survival necessities.