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Is it ethical to stockpile groceries during the coronavirus crisis? Show more Show less
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All around the world we are seeing images of emptied supermarket shelves as people prepare for lockdowns. Is it ethical to ensure you have enough supplies for your family without regards to others? Or is it unethical not to think of other (potentially more disadvantaged) people's needs?

Yes, it is ethical to stockpile groceries Show more Show less

At the end of the day, you have a right to protect yourself and your family. You do not owe it to other people to ensure their needs are met too.
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Stockpiling is driven by one's instinctive need for survival

During times of crisis, people can easily go into survival mode. When there is uncertainty all around and it has been widely established that practices such as stockpiling can potentially be life-saving, people are willing to follow this advice even if it is not necessarily true. But, it is unfair to blame people for such actions that are solely driven by their survival instinct.

The Argument

A simple trip to the grocery store has now turned into a Hunger Games battle. Fueled by fear and anxiety, people have begun to buy excessive quantities of items. As people stand in checkout lines, their shopping carts are overflowing with food, water, and non-perishable items. While one could say that such behavior is unwarranted, it is also worthy to note that during such a stressful time, societies are simply driven by their most basic, primal need for survival. Such survival-driven, instinctive behavior can be described using the concept of prospect theory.[1] In this instance, the theory concludes that people would much rather stockpile and take all protective measures in the current state than shop reasonably and rely on the supply-chain process to restock. To put it simply, people are much more concerned about being insured of their needs in the present than relying on solutions that will improve conditions in the future. Normally, people are able to focus on the long-run and look at events in context. However, during such uncertain times, they have resorted to their instinctive habit of focusing on current needs. This theory helps to explain why people feel the need to stockpile. They are driven by fear and anxiety to take all measures to protect themselves. By buying large quantities of bread, dairy products, toilet paper, and all other supplies, they can eliminate the number of times they need to go out. Their survival instinct prompts them to take such effective measures and protect themselves. People who are stockpiling are not unethical as they are simply relying on such means to ensure their livelihoods.

Counter arguments

Stockpiling is not driven by one's supposed survival mode; rather, it is caused by irrational behavior with no justification. Survival implies that people are taking all measures to ensure they can live through a specific scenario. For example, when people buy large quantities of water during a camping or hiking trip, they are trying to ensure that they do not run out of this necessity and they can be healthy for the duration of the trip. But, when people buy enough toilet paper to last them a whole year, they are not thinking about their survival prospects. At that point, they are almost more concerned about their comfort and quality of lifestyle than their need for survival. In such times such as COVID-19, people have to be willing to make sacrifices such as buying less canned food or hand sanitizers. These sacrifices do not mean that they are put in a vulnerable position.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://theconversation.com/when-the-coronavirus-gets-tough-the-tough-get-stockpiling-133419/source.html
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 16 Jun 2020 at 20:22 UTC

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