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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 ensures that your loved ones are provided for

During uncertain times, it is only expected of one to put their family's needs first. By stockpiling, one could ensure that their family members were provided for and this could ease the level of panic in their homes.

The Argument

During a time of absolute panic and chaos, it is only natural to think about one’s family. Making sure that they are provided for and comfortable is of the utmost importance. Imagine being in the shoes of someone in March 2020. They have received news from their local governors or state governors that there is going to be an extended period of lockdown. Nobody really knows how long it is going to last. Also, grocery stores are being swept clean by shoppers. To add to all of this, people are living in an unprecedented time and there is so much conflicting advice, that most do not know what to follow. A rational measure to take would be to make sure they are doing everything to provide for their families. Stockpiling has become the consequence of this reasoning. While, in the long run, many have reevaluated its effectiveness, during those initial days it would have only been natural for someone to take these measures. Ensuring that their family had enough food, water, and other non-perishable items could have significantly lowered their level of panic and made them feel safer and more prepared for the upcoming weeks. Furthermore, with the media threatening nationwide-shortages, it would have become even more paramount that all people within a family are able to obtain essential items. As most people stockpiled, they did it with the idea of eliminating how many times they had to go out and thereby reducing their risk of falling ill. During times of such uncertainty, it is only natural to care for those who depend on you, and stockpiling was simply one of the ways that people made sure of this.

Counter arguments

Stockpiling is not required to provide for homes and families. If people simply bought standard amounts of supplies, they would easily have been able to keep enough in stock as well as ensure that others can provide for their families. There is a clear and defining difference between stockpiling and buying more of something to last a longer duration. For example, due to the predicted lockdown period, it would have made sense to buy a few more rolls of toilet paper or some more frozen foods and grains. However, it is not sensible to buy an entire year's worth of toilet paper. People did not keep this in mind while purchasing items, and by doing what they did, many others were negatively affected. By trying to provide for themselves and their families, they took away the means for others to also do the same.

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    This page was last edited on Tuesday, 16 Jun 2020 at 20:15 UTC

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