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Is it ethical to stockpile groceries during the coronavirus crisis? Show more Show less

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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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.
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Context

The Argument

Stockpiling is simply one of the numerous instances in life when you are influenced by the people around you. Imagine if one’s neighbor, best friend, and Mom were all of a sudden stockpiling supplies such as toilet paper or non-perishable food items. It is only natural for the individual to then assume that they should also do the same. This behavior is not driven by irrationality but rather they are simply following a set example. This is the exact scenario that transpired during the COVID-19 outbreak. As an increasing number of people began to buy large quantities of items, others also started stockpiling. This can be explained through the herd mentality. [1]When someone is facing uncertain times or is living in a situation that is unprecedented, they start relying on the knowledge and practices of others to guide them. They make decisions through observations and following the majority. As people began entering supermarkets and seeing entire aisles cleared off all supplies, it sent a psychological trigger demanding them to also do the same. Not only was there a subconscious mental trigger, but there was also a reasonable explanation that most were able to formulate for their actions. This explanation was that if everyone else buys all of the items and one person does not, what will happen to them when there are widespread shortages in stores. Even if some people wanted to behave in a different way, they were deprived of that choice. The actions of a few had set a pattern for the broader society and going against this pattern meant possibly not preparing themselves in the face of the pandemic.

Counter arguments

It is not ethical to stockpile just because everyone else is resorting to that method. This logic applies to many things in life also. For example, just because everyone cheated on a test in class or everyone decided to pull a mean prank, does not mean that any individual is exempted from guilt and negative consequences. In the case of stockpiling, if enough people had started to resist the new practice, it would have served as a pattern for others to follow. It would have taught people to act more rationally and change their behavior as well. Just like it only took a few people to start this behavior, it would’ve only taken a few to also stop this behavior. It was the responsibility of each and every person to be that voice of reason during these trying periods, and people simply cannot hide within the veil of conformity.

Framing

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200304-coronavirus-covid-19-update-why-people-are-stockpiling/source.html

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