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
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.
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.
When everyone else is doing it, it is only reasonable to follow them
As humans, we have always relied on each other to find innovative and effective solutions during tough situations. During a worldwide pandemic, it is natural for people to resort to this established habit of following examples. Stockpiling became one such habit where the actions of a few influenced many.
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.
Vulnerable people are more likely to stockpile due to anxiety
In the UK the elderly have expressed increasaed anxiety in regards to accessing essentials due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, the number of people who report their well-being as affected due to this increased consistently with the age demographic in the UK. Does this mean we are to blame them as equally as we blame others for stockpiling? Should we not allow vulnerable people with a lack of access to stockpile for their own safety and peace of mind?
It is unethical to only think of yourself during this time. There are people who need the supplies as much as you do and it is just and fair to ensure that there is enough for them as well.
More vulnerable people who need essential items are not able to attain them
It is not ethical to stockpile groceries and other supplies because it prevents more vulnerable people from attaining them. It also leads to increases in prices which only further worsens the situation.
Creates a massive sense of panic in an already unstable society
As increasing numbers of people begin stockpiling, visible shortages around stores become evident. Social media tends to hype these events more and more. This leads to a state of chaos and panic causing more people to stockpile.
Nationwide shortages are caused by people stockpiling resources
There is no disruption in the supply chain process that is causing this phenomenon. Shortages are occurring because people are unnecessarily stockpiling items. Driven by the irrational behavior of a few, entire communities begin stockpiling which results in shortages.
There are way bigger issues at hand than whether or not someone has more toilet paper for you. We should be focusing on ensuring healthcare services aren't at max capacity instead.
The more paramount issue is contagion inside the stores
Overcrowding in stores leads to higher transmission rates of the disease. The bigger issue is for grocery store owners to focus on lowering the possibility of such transmission. More attention needs to given to such problems rather than stockpiling.
Hospitals are the real problem; stockpiling is simply a consequence of this structural issue
Hospitals all across the world are being overwhelmed and people are in a state of panic due to the lack of hospital beds and medical supplies. If this root problem is addressed, then stockpiling and other minor issues will also be resolved.