It’s All Looting Peggy, It’s All Looting…

In her latest column, Peggy Noonan defends looting for necessities, but she thinks looters stealing non-essentials should be shot. From my perspective, that’s sort of a “glass half-full” sort of argument. But, let’s focus on the empty half of the glass. From Noonan’s column:

“There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn’t even anyone at the cash register.”

While I like and respect Peggy Noonan and other conservatives who’re making this argument (like Jonah Goldberg), this is completely bogus. It’s an example of conservatives taking a position they know is morally wrong just because they don’t want to be perceived as “mean.” It’s also — in almost every case — hypocritical. Why do I say that? Let me give you an example:

Let’s say Peggy Noonan had a nice, nifty house somewhere in New Orleans. Being an intelligent woman, she hears about hurricane Katrina and heads out of the city. Well, unbelievably, it turns out she got lucky. Her house had a little wind damage, but it wasn’t flooded.

Now, let’s say 20 people start walking down the street and they notice Peggy’s nice house. One of them figures food is in there and he walks up to the front door, with the other 19 people standing right behind him, and gets ready to kick down the door. So he rares back and….stop, right there.

If you’re Peggy Noonan, do you consider that man not to be a criminal, to be “sane,” and do you hope he kicks in the door of your house? See, I’d be almost 100% sure that if she were being honest, she’d say “no.”

In fact, knowing conservatives as I do, I can tell you that most of them would be willing to give away food and water if they had any extra, but they would also be willing to pull out a gun to keep those people out of their home, even if they were safely across the street in no danger.

So why should someone else’s property be any different? Who is Peggy Noonan or anybody else to suddenly declare that somebody else’s property suddenly belongs to whomever happens to want it? We have a hurricane and suddenly we have normally sensible conservatives who start sounding like Vladimir Lenin.

“Oh, but, John, it’s a crisis and it’s OK to steal things in a crisis.” Since when?

Besides, what’s the difference between: “Gee, I decided to stay in town after I was told to evacuate and I’m hungry,” and “Gee, I didn’t want to get a job and I’m hungry?” In either case, it’s hunger caused by your own irresponsibility. It’s nice, it’s charitable to help people out in either situation, but in neither case does the fact that a person is hungry give them the right to just take whatever they want.

Even setting all that aside, human nature being what it is, if people are openly stealing food and water in broad daylight, other people will see that and take it to the next level. The idea that you can have groups of people kicking in the doors of supermarkets and taking food and water without inspiring other people to take all the whiskey, electronics, and whatever else they can find is pure unadulterated fantasy. You don’t get to pick your own particular comfort level when it comes to anarchy, you get the whole, ugly ball of wax.

What it all comes down to is that the whole idea that there’s “good looting” and “bad looting” makes no practical sense. Do people think that if someone kicks in the door of a WalMart and grabs water and canned food, they’re a good looter, but if they grab a $10 watch on their way out — they suddenly turn into bad guys? Should the cops be standing around, allowing people to loot food and water, but shoot anyone who comes out with a TV? If two people want to steal the same jug of water, is it first come first served, or is it OK to steal things from the other people who are stealing things? What if a Salvation Army van rolls down the street at that very moment with donated food and water? Are the people who continue stealing food and water from Walmart suddenly bad guys again? How about if it’s coming in two hours, but you’re hungry now?

This is the sort of chaos we end up with when we have people condoning looting — and, yes, before you ask, this is (probably) my last looting post, but this whole, “It’s OK to loot,” attitude is just anathema to a civilized society and more people need to step up and say just that…

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