Ethics Quiz: Looters

Looting has been reported in Houston. There are not too many species of human detritus lower than those who take advantage of natural disasters to prey on their neighbors, so the question arises, is it ethical for a city government to order police to shoot them?

This question usually arises in the context of martial law. A curfew has in fact been declared in Houston to minimize the looting; presumably an announcement that looters will be shot on sight will be even more effective deterrence. There are good reasons to discourage looting with strong measures. The conduct threatens civilized society itself, because it is not civilized conduct. If looting becomes widespread, the rule of law is suspended, and worse crimes may follow. In a situation like Houston’s, looting also forces law enforcement to choose between rescuing property and rescuing people. If police openly make the choice to let looters loot while they devote their attention elsewhere, then Looting Season has been declared officially open.

Over the years we have occasionally heard that orders were given to shoot looters on sight, but few looters have been shot. Usually the order is enough, which suggests that the order to shoot is a bluff, but usually an effective one.

Police shoot unarmed citizens alarmingly frequently already, however: that’s one order that shouldn’t be given in jest. Presumably most looters are unarmed; I’m not going to concern myself with the question of whether armed looters can be ethically shot. The answer to that is yes, especially when they shoot at rescuers, as apparently some have in Houston. No, your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

In a natural disaster, is the order to shoot looters on sight ethical?

In the chaos that followed Katrina, there were reports that police officers were ordered to shoot looters. A Pro Publica report documented the confusion; it also appears to presume from the outset that shooting looters is per se wrong. I should clarify that if one approves of shooting looters, we are talking about shooting to kill. Salon, predictably, issued an ideological screed during Super Storm Sandy arguing that “demonizing looters puts property above people.” Ah. It is only poor people who are looting, ergo looting is a crime of necessity, not a crime of opportunity, ergo not a crime at all. The article is the product of badly assembled ethics alarms. I am not asking whether those who attempt to benefit from their community being ravaged by nature should be demonized: the answer to that question is “Of course they should.” Nor is the quiz “Should the staff at Salon be shot for making social justice warrioring appear especially brain-dead and ridiculous?” though I am sorely tempted.

No, the question is about whether a utilitarian analysis dictates that looting during a disaster is conduct that must be stopped, and that draconian measures are justified in stopping it. We can’t apply the Golden Rule, because the people I am asking this question to would never be looters. Kant’s Rule of Universality would presumably apply if one’s answer to the quiz is yes. Salon raises the question of good looting and bad looting, which makes any serious deterrence impossible. ‘Looters carrying TVs and large appliances will be shot; looting of sex toy shops will be giggled at, and looting of grocery stores and pharmacies will be assisted by police if their time permits.’

No.

Let’s keep this quiz simple. Is it ethical for police to shoot looters, or not?

 

161 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

161 responses to “Ethics Quiz: Looters

  1. crella

    In my opinion, no. Warning shots, sure, but not shooting to injure. There are possibly hundreds of looters, shoot them all, and they all further burden emergency services.

    Every time I see people defending looting after a disaster, I’m sick of the ‘they’re poor and hungry’ because as far as I know, you can’t eat flat screens or sneakers. Can they even sell them in a flood? Food I could understand…even so, in Tohoku people lined up for almost a mile to buy food at convenience stores, and most were careful not to overbuy, horde and so deprive others. It can be done.

    • crella wrote, “Warning shots, sure, but not shooting to injure.”

      crella,
      Warning shots; are you talking about police or citizens?

      • crella

        Both, I guess…I was thinking primarily of law enforcement seeing something like the above situation. Home or shop owners hadn’t occurred to me. I’m not anti-gun at all, I just don’t agree police starting to shoot people running out of a store. It’s overuse of force.

        If I were in my home and someone broke in, or was in the process of breaking in I would (theoretically, it’s hard to tell how you’d really react) try to warn them off, but if they succeeded in getting in, I would defend myself (here, that means a baseball bat or FIL’s wooden kendo sword…) with no hesitation.

    • I’m still trying to think through my response to this quiz, but crella said something I felt needed a response before I’d figured out the answer to the quiz itself.

      Warning shots, sure, but not shooting to injure

      Absolutely not, and god help everyone if that’s what anyone tells the individuals tasked with restoring law and order to do.

      Warning shots, fired within a chaotic environment with all sorts of stranded individuals, rescuers, and recovery personal working that you may not be aware of, because you can not see them, and/or may not be familiar with the environment itself? You have no way of knowing what lives you’ve endangered, by discharging that weapon in a direction you know nothing about.

      No, you either shoot to kill, or you don’t shoot at all. There’s no middle ground there which isn’t irresponsible, risky, and inherently unethical, because you’re relying upon luck to keep the bullet from causing a bigger problem somewhere else.

      • … only the quote on that was supposed to be in italics. *sigh* I still have not grasped word press formatting, it appears. My kingdom for a preview button.

      • Tim,
        I pretty much agree with you with one exception; in general, a warning shot can easily be fired directly into the “ground” immediately in front of the shooter without any real safety concerns – there are exceptions to that like elevated positions where there is a reasonable possibility of people being under the position, 2nd floor, staircase, etc.

        • Rusty Rebar

          I have very strong feelings about this. Your warning shot is the guy in front of you falling over dead. There is never an occasion where a warning shot is justifiable. If you have a firearm out, but you are unwilling to kill what is in front of you, you have the wrong tool in your hand. A firearm is for stopping threats, not for scaring people, or warning them, or making yourself look cool. Warning shots are dangerous, from a gun safety point of view, and send a terrible message about the appropriate time to pull out a gun.

          • Rusty,
            Maybe, just maybe, you could pay attention to what I actually wrote and what I was agreeing to in Tim’s comment and what the exception part of my comment was about. In other words how about a little comprehension on your part.

            Do you want to try again or just apologize for all the implied false smears?

            • What implied false smears are you talking about?

              He’s got nothing to apologize for.

              • Really tex? Have you read the comment progression?

                He implied that the one exception I noted was going to shoot the guy in front of me – what guy Tex – that was not a condition of the exception I noted, he’s adding in things that are not there and using that to say I’m going to shoot that guy, l that is a smear based on HIS add conditions – it’s bull shit!

                He also implied that I was justifying warning shots – I DID NO SUCH THING and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise! The fact is that the core of Tim Hayes comment was against warning shots and I agreed with that core, I just disagreed that there is no way of firing a warning shot so it doesn’t endanger people. I have not and do not advocate for warning shots. Have I made myself absolutely clear now?

                Are we done with this nonsense?

                • Pretend to be affronted all you want, a reasonable person reads Rusty’s comment as demonstrating that warning shots are foolish in any situation, and the the hyperbolic example he gave was NOT a warning shot, except for the *lucky* miscreant who wasn’t targeted by the first shot, where the first shot shoots the first looter in a row.

                  It’s blatantly obvious that’s the device Rusty used.

                  I hope you are done with this nonsense.

                  He owes you no apology.

                  • Tex,
                    You interrupted Rusty’s comment in an entirely different manner than I did. I interrupted it the way I did because it was a direct reply to my comment. Your interruption could work if it had been worded better, especially this part, “Your warning shot is the guy in front of you falling over dead. There is never an occasion where a warning shot is justifiable.”

                    If your interruption is what Rusty’s intent was, then I’m fine with the comment and withdraw my criticism, otherwise, it stands as is.

                    The only one that can clear this up is Rusty.

      • crella

        I see! I am not familiar with law enforcement procedure. I was thinking that there must be a better way than outright shooting people. I did not realize that it is a bad idea.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      Warning shots are worthless if someone knows that’s all there will be.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “Warning shots are worthless if someone knows that’s all there will be.”

        How the hell is someone going to know that that’s all there will be; the logical life saving assumption is that there are more bullets where that came from and to either proceed with caution or retreat.

        • Jeff

          I think Steve means that, as a policy or directive, “only warning shots” has little value. It will quickly become known that the police department is only shooting to scare, which has far less value as a deterrent.

    • Matthew B

      It won’t take shooting hundreds. Shooting one, and only one proves it is not a bluff. It has incredible deterrent effect.

      The same goes for riots. Looting and rioting are participated in because they are “fun” in the rioter’s / looter’s mind. Getting shot is a real buzz-kill to that fun.

  2. I think that one consideration is whether the absence of an order will induce vigilante action, which could lead to an order to shoot the vigilantes.

      • Do you know where that was taken? I think I know the guy on the far left.

        • No idea. There’s a very remote chance this is just a photoshopped image…I’ll do the analysis later to see if there are any of the typical markers of an edited image.

          • I’m guessing it’s either photoshopped to make them look silly, or they made the spelling and grammar errors on purpose as a joke. There are aspects of the letters that look genuine to me and aspects that look fake, so I can’t tell.

            The least likely possibility, I think, is that someone actually misspelled “looters”, but maybe they were so eager to show off their edgy-looking “double-T that looks like lower-case pi” that they forgot they couldn’t use it. Then they wanted to use the double-O that they forgot, so they put in in “shot”.

  3. Zanshin

    And there are shop keepers who raise the prices of basic necessities like water and food multiple times.
    Also a kind of looting? If yes, should they then also be killed at sight?

    • Rich in CT

      Well, how does a shop owner account for the higher cost of doing business in a disaster zone?

      • (Generally higher prices at all times, not just during disaster, reflecting a flood insurance policy’s component to the increased cost of living.)

        I think excessive price gouging and maybe even just ordinary price gouging is unethical during disasters, but in principle I’m not sure it can be forcefully stopped.

        • Rich in CT

          But how do you account for the increased costs and risks faced by merchants who have never done business in a disaster zone, bringing goods and services not otherwise available during the time of disaster?

          • If it can be economically justified in pure terms of trying to provide value to the market then providers can charge what a buyers are willing to spend.

            If the provider is using the disaster to get away with charging MORE than would be expected in a typically functioning market BECAUSE the disaster increases demand and for no other reasons, then the provider IS being unethical.

            But because it seems to me an unprovable condition, there is no way to compel providers to keep prices low.

            If a provider must incur additional costs to continue providing THROUGH a disaster, then of course the provider gets to raise prices (or not, as he so chooses).

            • Richard

              “If it can be economically justified” Any price increase is economically justified. Let’s say I have some gas, a disaster strikes, now instead of a $3 a gallon I start charging $10, I haven’t incurred any other cost as the gas in already in my tanks, but I can’t get any more delivered. Now a person who doesn’t need the fuel will bypass me at $10, while at $3 they would stop and top off “Just to be safe” meaning I’d have less fuel for those who really need it. While a person who really needs it will pay $10 and odds are they would be grateful there was fuel to be had.

              So in this case the rise in price, even without an increase to cost to me, means more people who really need it will get it. While at a lower price people who didn’t really need it would use up the supply.

              • I don’t think we disagree.

                That being said, the original point made that disaster *profiteeering* is unethical, I think stands. But if there are perfectly legit reasons to raise prices, then it isn’t unethical to do so. But since we’ll never know what drives any particular price increase, you can’t stop the unethical profiteers.

                • Richard

                  But it’s not unethical if you really think about. Now there are laws on the books that say you can’t price gouge or that freeze prices during an emergency, but what do the laws really do? Take John Shepperson as an example, he bought 19 generators, rented a U-Haul truck, and drove 600 miles (this was during Katrina). He hoped to sell the generators at double his purchase price. Instead, he was arrested for price gouging, spent 4 days in jail, and the generators were confiscated. So people who would have been happy to pay 2x the price couldn’t get them, people and businesses are thus discourage from take on the expense for resupplying, as they can’t raise their prices, leading to even more shortages. In the end it’s far more ethical to let the market decide the price, then let the government, no matter how well intended, freeze prices. Freezing prices stops supplies, as nobody will bother taking on the added risk and expense, leading to more suffering. Then add in the question of when should we freeze prices, should we stop business from raising prices on air-conditions when the temperature goes up? Even if it’s an extreme heat event, and it’s a heat emergency? Just when should government get involved?

            • Rich in CT

              This is a real problem. I read during Katrina about complaints that bottles of water were being sold for something like $20 a for a 5 gallon jug. Possibly charges for price gouges….

              I did the math, and while I am remember calculations I did 10 years ago, the cost supplies and a single person’s labor to go to Walmart at 3AM and fill up a pick up truck, drive six hours from Houston to New Orleans, sell the water from 9-3, and go home made the price a bargain. He’d be making the equivalent of 50K a year, but he would be putting in 18-hour days.

              I am thus very skeptical that price gouging is a real problem. If first responders, working on somebody else’s dime, are not providing enough resources, is it ethical to prosecute those who are providing services at inflated prices that they think justly compensate themselves?

              • Rich in CT

                >>
                3. There was a story I read about how after Hurricane Katrina struck, somebody bought packs of bottled water and sold them for like $30 per bottle to the thirsty victims. Obviously this guy is an evil man, and was taking advantage of free market principles. ..

                >>But like I wrote before, St. Thomas Aquinas would consider this immoral.

                “Just Price” requires that the price be fair to both buyer and seller. Saint Thomas would not consider immoral if the $30 per bottle fairly reflected the seller’s cost.

                Consider the distance from the nearest city unharmed (ex Houston to New Orleans, 350 mi one way). If a flatbed truck could hold 90 cubic feet (5x6x3)and get 12 mpg, it could carry approximately 2250 one liter bottles for a one way cost of $70 (gas at 2.50/gal).

                Now, let assume that it is a 5 hour drive each way, plus 2 hours to purchase and load the truck, plus 5 hours to sell all the water in New Orleans before heading home. That is a 17 hour day!

                To be parsimonious, he will pay himself 7.50/hour, plus overtime (1.5 for hours after 8). This results in 21.5 hour equivalents of work, for a total of $161 dollars in wages. Plus gas driving to and fro: $301. Now, if he paid $0.25 a bottle, his total costs for the trip is $865.

                Now, there is risk involved. He is driving through a disaster zone, and his truck could be damaged. If his truck cost had a $500 deductible for insurance, then he is at risk for $1365, when he can only expect to earn $160 that day. Further, his truck will be tied up for maybe a week, so he would loose up to another $800 in personal wages by being unable to deliver water to New Orleans! On any given day, he risks loosing $2100, but only might earn $160, mind your, for a SEVENTEEN HOUR workday, delivering water at minimum wage to city and selling it at cost.

                Further, assuming he does this full time, he will need to pay commercial insurance on his truck, at perhaps $5000 annually, plus payments for the cost of the buying the truck, perhaps another $5000 annually, plus wear and tear maintenance of another $5000. Thus 5 days a week, the daily cost of the truck alone is at least $60.

                So his daily costs are at least $925; this amounts to $0.40 a bottle. Now, if each citizen needs 3 liters of water a day, they would be each spending $1.20 a day, and 750 people could be served by this one truck. A family of four would pay $4.80 a day for water.

                However, the driver’s personal wage is only $160, he is working for 17 hours each day, and he risks loosing a weeks worth of wages if something goes wrong. The economics are not in his favor.

                Raise his wage to $2000, and water is still only being sold for a dollar a bottle, and he could earn up to $52000 a year. However he would be working 70 hour weeks delivering a vital service. Double his wage again, and water is still only $2 a liter.

                If it is a 5 gallon jugs that he is selling, then the cost comes in at about $40 a jug.

                If the individual is charging $30 for a one liter bottle, that would be usury. If it were a 5 gallon jug, then it is a bargain.

    • Rusty Rebar

      Price gouging, while abhorrent is not the same thing as looting. Are you even serious?

    • Jeff

      There is a vast difference between charging a (possibly unreasonable) high price to sell something you own and stealing someone else’s property.

  4. In a natural disaster, is the order to shoot looters on sight ethical?”

    No.

  5. “Is it ethical for police to shoot looters, or not?”

    No.

  6. During disasters things need to be prioritized; non-violent looting is way down the list of things to deal with when there are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in desperate/immediate need of rescue, housing, food, water, etc.

    Looters taking advantage of disasters for personal gain are the scum of the human race; after this mess is “over” and authorities can prioritize things differently, use any available video to identify looters later and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

    • Emily

      Agree.

      In my personal opinion I’d add that there’s also likely to be a lot of room for error and misunderstanding. While some looters *will* be obvious (after curfew, especially), in a lot of cases police who don’t know an area are going to be trying to make a call from a distance as to whether someone is a looter or has a right to the property (or, in some cases, isn’t after property at all and is looking for help.) The last thing a chaotic situation needs is overworked, stressed individuals making *even more* life or death, split second decisions while the population they’re trying to help is *also* frightened and desperate. Property crimes that can be dealt with later should be.

    • Emily

      “after this mess is “over” and authorities can prioritize things differently, use any available video to identify looters later and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

      Just a thought: while not as effective, an alternate deterrent might be to announce that police, emergency personnel, and vehicles will be equipped with cameras, and even take donations to plant cameras in areas where looting is likely. Announce that investigating looters will be a priority once the state of emergency is lifted, and any looters identified will be prosecuted.

      You’re still not going to get the really determined people, but it might cut back some, especially on really flagrant crimes, and make people think twice.

      • This is why looters wear hoods and masks. Try again.

        • Emily

          Hoods and masks aren’t fool proof. Clothing and other features can still be identified, and people running around in a flood in hoods and masks seem like a safe bet for police to stop and question if they can get to them.

          The point isn’t that there are other deterrents as effective as shooting on sight; the point is that I don’t think shooting on sight can be justified given the priorities of the situation and the potential for irreversible harm, but *some* deterrent is absolutely necessary. So anything that might make a dent without interfering with rescue efforts and adding to danger should be promoted.

    • Rusty Rebar

      Do you think that having the bulk of the people affected by the disaster obey an evacuation order and get themselves out of the area is a priority? If you do not deal with looting, who is going to do that? A much higher percentage of people (rightly or wrongly) are going to stay behind to protect their stuff. The reason they leave in a disaster situation is that they have a reasonable expectation that the police / military is going to keep order and at least deter others from victimizing those who wisely left the affected areas.

      • Rusty Rebar wrote, “Do you think that having the bulk of the people affected by the disaster obey an evacuation order and get themselves out of the area is a priority?”

        That’s a deflection from what I wrote; but, sure it’s a priority for authorities so they don’t have MILLIONS of people to airlift off their rooftops; the problem is that it’s an order that ‘s not really enforceable unless the authorities are willing to physically drag people out of the area.

        Rusty Rebar wrote, “If you do not deal with looting, who is going to do that?”

        Listen Rusty there are choices to made, do you uses the available emergency services to save the people that are in peril or do you let them die and go catch looters. You may not like that, but that is the reality of the situation on the ground.

        Rusty Rebar wrote, “A much higher percentage of people (rightly or wrongly) are going to stay behind to protect their stuff.”

        That’s their choice, and their choice could get them killed or in need of emergency services that are being stretch well beyond reasonable limits, stretched so far that everyday citizens have to volunteer their time, vehicles, and skills to become part of the emergency services and even that’s not enough.

        Rusty Rebar wrote, “The reason they leave in a disaster situation is that they have a reasonable expectation that the police / military is going to keep order and at least deter others from victimizing those who wisely left the affected areas.”

        The reason for leaving is to remove you and your family from a disaster situation and keep them safe; you and your family can’t be replaced, your precious material possessions can be.

        Additionally; are you going to be part of the crowd of people that blame the government because criminal looters stole your flat screen TV’s off the walls of your flooded man-cave in the middle of a hurricane? Maybe you should have taken your precious flat screen TV’s with you. I suppose the hurricane itself will end up to be Trump’s fault because he thinks the claims of climate change alarmist are bogus.

        • joed68

          ” do you uses the available emergency services to save the people that are in peril or do you let them die and go catch looters.(?)”

          I think that that’s the idea behind shooting them. You address the problem without wasting too much time.

          • That’s a way of reducing the surplus population; shoot the criminal looters and allow the non-criminals that didn’t follow evacuation orders to die too, It’s almost like getting a two-for-one. 😉

          • Emily

            I keep seeing the idea of shooting looters as a timesaver on this thread… Do people really believe that?

            Not every shot is going to kill someone, and then the looter is a seriously injured person who needs first aide, transportation, hospital space, etc.

            And if it does kill them, the body doesn’t just disappear like a video game. It’s going to need to be removed, police will have to gather evidence that he was actually looting to avoid lawsuits from families, and there will be tons of paperwork to fill out for the same reason.

            The only way a shoot on sight order saves any time is if it *is* an effective deterrent and no one is shot because no one is looting.

            • Emily wrote, “I keep seeing the idea of shooting looters as a timesaver on this thread… Do people really believe that?”

              Seriously Emily?

              Maybe there wasn’t little smile emotions associated with these statements but I think it is quite clear that they were presented as a form of sarcasm/humor. I don’t think there is even one person here that is or has actually advocated for putting snipers on rooftops to kill looters as they leave the places they are looting; if you really think that’s what someone is actually advocating then quote the comment.

              • “I think that that’s the idea behind shooting them. You address the problem without wasting too much time.”

                Which is literally the comment Emily replied to.

                Here’s another:

                “If it’s a choice between save the drowning person over here, or stop the looter over there, you can shoot the looter, then go help the drowner; both problems solved.”

                “I don’t think there is even one person here that is or has actually advocated for putting snipers on rooftops to kill looters as they leave the places they are looting; if you really think that’s what someone is actually advocating then quote the comment.” -Zoltar

                That’s a strawman. And clearly, as nothing like that is what Emily is protesting.

                • texagg04 wrote, “Which is literally the comment Emily replied to.”

                  Seriously tex; what part of “Maybe there wasn’t little smile emotions associated with these statements but I think it is quite clear that they were presented as a form of sarcasm/humor” did you not understand?

                  texagg04 wrote, “That’s a strawman.”

                  Fine Tex, it’s a damn strawman. The intention was sarcastic hyperbole, I was intentionally being ridiculous because I think Emily was being ridiculous for not recognizing what I thought were others attempts at humor.

                  Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, Go Directly To Jail – Zoltar.

                  Give me a freaking break.

                  • You had smiley emoticons on your comment, which Emily did not respond to.

                    The other quotes did not have smiley emoticons, one of which Emily did respond to.

                    What part of that did you not understand?

                    • joed68

                      I just forgot to put smiley emoticons.

                    • Fair enough. I don’t think that undermines Emily though.

                    • I mean to say, all it indicates is Emily made a reasonable interpretation of the data in front of her.

                    • texagg04 wrote, “The other quotes did not have smiley emoticons, one of which Emily did respond to.”

                      So a smiley is the ONLY method of determining humor. Got it.

                      Tex, I was literally chided on this very website back when I first started commenting because I wasn’t “getting” some of the commenters humor, I’ve learned that it was justifiable chiding, joed68 was literally one of them that chided me. Well I evolved; I started understanding and appreciate his, and others, forms of humor and now I’m the bad guy for recognizing the intended sarcastic humor and trying to get someone else to understand it.

                      I can’t fucking win. Screw this shit.

                    • “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”

                    • You know, I’ve completely missed this thread, and I’m glad I did.

                    • I’m the bad guy for recognizing the intended sarcastic humor and trying to get someone else to understand it.

                      No, but someone might look at you like a bad guy because in your effort of “trying to get someone else to understand…the intended sarcastic humor”, it looks much less like “chiding” and much more like “flying off the rails”.

                      I think what was lacking in your correction of Emily, was proportion. At worst, Emily made an understandable misinterpretation of other commentary that seemed to have a consistent theme she found concerning.

                      That doesn’t seem to me to warrant the “correction” you delivered.

                      Just an observation.

                    • So this comment of mine was is “flying off the rails”? Really tex, really?!

                      Was that supposed to be a tex version of sarcastic humor without a smiley emoticon? You’ve read a lot of my comments around here for quite some time and you think that one was flying off the rails? Give me a break tex; that was the equivalent to a warm and fuzzy complement compared to what happens when I fly off the rails.

                      I’m done with this conversation.

                    • P.S. Call that rationalization 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.” if you like, I just don’t give a damn.

                  • Emily

                    Well… that escalated quickly.

                    I did miss the sarcasm in Joe’s comment, and I apologize. In my defense, along with Joe’s comment and the other one Tex cited, there are also ones like Red Pill Ethics (as an example):

                    “If you see a bad hombre leave a Walmart or a Best Buy with an unopened TV on his back? Fire away – that dude is attacking society during it’s weakest moment for personal gain. Fuck em. Joe Schmuck carrying his TV from his house to his car should be fine. Drop a bunch of leaflets too, explaining the looter rules so that your government has a strong layer of defense against ignorance.”

                    …which implies that he sees some benefit to shooting someone rather than arresting them in that situation. Combined with similar comments, the sarcastic comments, and the lack of mention (except by Zoltar, which I agreed with) of the time and resources that would be diverted from emergency relief if someone actually was shot this way, it seemed like the inefficiency of shooting a looter wasn’t at the forefront of most people’s minds.

                    But while Zoltar’s comment did come off as a little rough, I think we would have gotten things straightened out, and I’m not holding a grudge or anything.

                    That said, I do appreciate Tex’s support. I *was* posting in good faith, and I was afk today.

  7. Brenda Pawloski

    No. I am more “conservative” than most and I am pro-life which means life at any age and you do not risk taking life to defend property rights.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      That’s a good moral position, but not a good ethical position, because if you follow it all the way to its logical conclusion it means I as a homeowner can’t open fire on someone breaking into my house to steal my belongings.

      • Brenda Pawloski

        Thank you, I do need to learn the difference between ethics and morals. I would have no problem firing on someone breaking into my house if I am in it because I can’t read the bad guys’ minds and sometimes they steal and kill (the Petit case out of Connecticut) but if there is no one (including pets) in the house and I’m in a position of safety I should not shoot. But thats morals so I’ll keep reading and learn the difference.

  8. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Reluctantly, yes. It needs to be made clear that the rule of law hasn’t broken down and it’s not a free-for-all. In a way this is the same as the broken window theory of policing, where if you leave simple vandalism alone worse will follow because people see they can get away with it. Let’s also not kid ourselves, it never stops with looting. The punks who are taking advantage of a disaster to steal TVs, cell phones, and other electronics that would be useless for surviving a disaster, but valuable to move on the black market, are the same scum who are going to rough up other survivors to steal what they can or rape women left vulnerable. Order needs to be reestablished and reestablished early, and if the price is the death of a few thieves who take advantage of their neighbors’ misfortune to self-enrich, then I really don’t have a problem with it.

  9. philk57

    I am opposed to shooting looters on sight, not because I defend looters or due to any ethical or moral position on the matter, but more as a practical matter. I have been on site for nearly every large natural disaster that you can name over the last 20 years. I drive a good looking truck, wear nice professional work clothes (for the environment) and normally wear my credentials around my neck. Still, I have been mistaken for a looter in an initial sighting on more than one occasion. Just because I was there, not because I was carrying loot or kicking in a door or something.

    I am not yet in Houston because the roads leading in are impassable, but I will be there soon. I don’t really want to rely on whatever changing standards that may be applied at the time that I am seen somewhere that I belong but am not expected.

  10. I’m inclined to go with no. It’s larceny, and while you could threaten to shoot looters who flee the scene and attempt to evade arrest, shooting them on sight is a summary execution for a crime that puts people in no danger. I get that the disaster invokes martial law, but it still seems excessive, especially when you consider, as philk57 points out, that it is easy to mistake innocent people for looters. Besides, with the infrastructure damaged, it is entirely valid to consider the distinct possibility that some looters are actually scavenging necessary supplies.

    • Stopping a crime *in the act* is not summary execution.

      I don’t think there’s an issue per se with using force to stop looters *in the act*. The burden is discernment between looters and non-looters.

  11. I’d think it’s not unethical to shoot looters.

    The burden on the authority to do so has nothing to do with the looters deserving it or not deserving it but on whether or not the authorities can easily discern between looters and non-looters.

    More later.

  12. Red Pill Ethics

    At first, I thought that philk57’s post was a reasonable concern too. How do you tell the difference between somebody carrying their possessions and someone carrying stolen goods? I wouldn’t hold it against Joe Schmuck to carry his TV with him if he was so poor that replacing it would be cost prohibitive (with the usual caveats about ensuring that he had no higher priorities like kids). I wouldn’t want him to get shot.

    But I thought about some more and it would be pretty straightforward to add a legal filter to when it’s okay to shoot a looter so that only very high probability looters are shot. Similar to the authorized and justified two-factor standard that the military employees for assessing whether or not the use of lethal force was legal.

    Posted: Looters will be shot on sight by law enforcement and/or disaster relief personnel. You must witness the suspected looter leaving a home or business that shows clear evidence of breaking and entering (smashed windows doors etc) and that looter must be carrying goods out of said building.

    If you see a bad hombre leave a Walmart or a Best Buy with an unopened TV on his back? Fire away – that dude is attacking society during it’s weakest moment for personal gain. Fuck em. Joe Schmuck carrying his TV from his house to his car should be fine. Drop a bunch of leaflets too, explaining the looter rules so that your government has a strong layer of defense against ignorance.

    That’d be the most ethical way to do it but personally, I’m still on the fence.

    • Yep, in terms of acting on the ethical need to protect persons and property, any engagement criteria would have to be heavily tailored.

    • philk57

      “it would be pretty straightforward to add a legal filter to when it’s okay to shoot a looter so that only very high probability looters are shot.”
      This is what I was thinking of when I referred to changing standards – that filter might start to get wider and wider.

      “You must witness the suspected looter leaving a home or business that shows clear evidence of breaking and entering (smashed windows doors etc) and that looter must be carrying goods out of said building.”
      These areas are largely characterized by smashed windows and doors. Part of my job includes entering these types of structures (granted, I never take anything out with me other than my camera, tapes and laser and notebook). But I won’t trust the discernment of a police officer with making those kinds of distinctions.

      I think you can make a much more practical position for the property owners to be shooting looters than police. All of the neighborhood watch folks that I have come across over the years knew who their neighbors were and only accosted people they didn’t know as they entered the area. When they would stop me, they would pass me through after seeing my credentials.

      Of course, this all still ignores the ethical component of the quiz. Just hits on an area where I have had a bit of experience.

  13. “Salon, predictably, issued an ideological screed during Super Storm Sandy arguing that “demonizing looters puts property above people.” Ah. It is only poor people who are looting, ergo looting is a crime of necessity, not a crime of opportunity, ergo not a crime at all.”

    I’m going to turn in my conservative club card on my way out for saying this, but I think I agree with Salon on this one…. And I wonder if you’ve actually read the article you linked to, because they didn’t make the argument you attribute to it.

    The author didn’t actually mention socioeconomic status once… Her point seemed to be that with some kind of frequency, the people labelled “looters” were foraging for sustenance in a disaster zone. I mean… look at her example… A guy given a six month prison sentence for stealing bottled water.

    I think that her point was more: “Despite being looters, looters are still people, and despite being yours that TV is just a TV, if we’re even talking about a TV and not something like food.”, and if we are OK with shooting people to protect property…. Regardless of whether that property is a TV or a bottle of water, we ARE per se giving property more value than the life of people.

    I think you’ve phrased this question poorly… I think this is a spinoff of the old ethics question: “Is it ethical to steal to feed your family?” How about “Is it ethical to shoot someone who’s stealing to feed his family?”

    • In a situation like this, I don’t see there being a problem with making the razor between “sustenance” AND “luxury items”.

      Because it’s not about shooting someone for taking a TV…the TV is just the symbol of the larger principle involved. It’s not just property, it’s about the very fabric of civilization.

      It’s not “You’re going to shoot him for a TV”, it’s “He says screw civilization, screw my fellow man, screw order and decency, screw the fact that people are dying and he’s capitalizing on that, for a TV”.

      Yeah. He’s forfeited his own protections of the civilization that he says that to.

      • “In a situation like this, I don’t see there being a problem with making the razor between “sustenance” AND “luxury items”.”

        I don’t disagree, but the Salon’s author specifically said she didn’t want to make that distinction:

        “Following reports on the treatment of looters during Katrina, Rebecca Solnit noted that what gets called “looting” is often to her better characterized as “foraging or requisitioning.” Instead of joining Solnit in her reframing — which risks drawing problematic lines between “good looting” and “bad looting”– I’d simply argue that the demonization of looters has again and again illustrated where priorities lie during disasters (which, in turn, shows where priorities lie all the time). And I’d echo another of Solnit’s basic points on the issue: Media frenzy over looting “regularly justifies spending far too much energy and far too many resources on control — the American military calls it ‘security’ — rather than relief.””

        I don’t agree with her, but I don’t think it’s a facially absurd argument. We are, after all, talking about killing people because they are stealing property.

        I know you want to put out there that there’s more in play here., and again, that’s not a facially absurd argument, but I think it’s a false dichotomy to say that the only possible outcomes are the breakdown of civilization and the death penalty for looters. No one is saying “Just let them do whatever”, but are we really going to kill people for this?

        • talking about killing people because they are stealing property.

          This is where you go astray. We are talking about members of the community, as civil order is breaking down and a community is fighting for its life, choosing to exploit and aggravate the crisis and plunder from others rather than do their duty as citizens. I’m demonizing that.

          • I mean… You seem to be dancing around the fact that your question is about killing those people. I’m not saying that those people are good people, I’m not saying that what they’re doing should be condoned, tolerated, or legal… I’m drawing a gigantic line at KILLING them.

            • How “dancing”? Official announcement: “This conduct is dangerous to everyone in the community. Don’t do it. We mean it. If you do it, you risk being shot.”

              Or: “Go ahead and rob each other blind. We can’t stop you. Tear the place apart if you like. You know we won’t be able to do anything while the streets are flooded and people are dying.”

              Generally if one looter is shot, killed or not, that will stem the looting.

              • First and foremost… I again reject that dichotomy. If the choices really were “Kill them or ignore them”, then maybe I’d have more sympathy for the question, but it isn’t, so I don’t.

                Second… Symbolic punishment is per se unethical. “A law must address a need. A law must be enforceable. The punishment for breaking a law must be proportional to the crime committed.”

                • 1. This isn’t punishment. Come on. We’ve discussed this in the context of police shootings. It’s law enforcement.
                  2. You know, if you are going to deny a binary choice, you have to explain the third way.
                  3. Symbolic punishment is essential to prosecutorial discretion. That, in essence, is the argument against the Joe Arpaio pardon, and a good one. It is the only, and best justification for capital punishment. Your statement is simply untrue. The issue is an ethics conflict, requiring balancing.

                  • 1. Explain to me how “punishment” and “enforcement” are A) Different and B) Mutually exclusive in this context?

                    2. I don’t know… I mean, the question was “is it OK for police to shoot looters.” And I’m just saying… If the police are there… And see the looter… Then maybe as opposed to shooting them dead… maybe they could arrest the looters instead. And then we could give them….. y’know… due process. Or something.

                    3. We’re talking about police officers making summary judgments resulting in capital punishment which they themselves carry out. Did you really just say “prosecutorial discretion” at me?

                    • Here’s where you touch the issue where it matters.

                      And here’s where I’m not against “shooting looters” in principle. But also where it shows it’s a far more nuanced area to discuss.

                      If we’re talking a single looter and a police overpowering presence. Of course an arrest can be made. If we’re talking about a scenario where MORE PEOPLE than present police are knocking over the Best Buy, a bit more force may be called for…and in such a situation, escalation of force protocols will of course apply. But the question is: when it comes down to the necessity to open fire to *stop* this level of a heinous crime *in the act*, I don’t see it as unethical to use lethal force. And be clear, the mere taking of property isn’t the problem…it’s the taking of property in this context.

                      My answer, is still, that yes, in certain circumstances, it is not unethical to shoot a looter, but those circumstances must be heavily defined, and ideally, the one or two instances where those circumstances are not met, the use of force is enough to deter a large amount of the conduct even in the situations outside of those heavily defined circumstances.

                    • “If we’re talking a single looter and a police overpowering presence. Of course an arrest can be made. If we’re talking about a scenario where MORE PEOPLE than present police are knocking over the Best Buy, a bit more force may be called for…and in such a situation, escalation of force protocols will of course apply.”

                      Look, “a bit more force” in this context is code for “shoot they ass dead”, because not only is that what the question explicitly deals with, but if the situation is too cumbersome for police to make arrests in, what else are they going to do? Beat the perps senseless and leave them there?

                      I don’t understand this mindset. I waffle on capital punishment… because even though I don’t have any particular hangups about murderers being executed, the process is flawed and the sentence is final… But I understand the thought process behind it. This baffles me. The idea that regularly liberty and rights minded people would suddenly throw that to the wayside to enable a dystopian army of Judge Dredds because people are carrying out property crimes is ridiculous.

                      And ridiculousness deserves mockery.

                    • As long a second you are going to pretend this is *only* about TVs, then by all means stick with meme rebuttals comparing Hollywood depictions of dystopia with real life principles.

                      I don’t think force should be the first answer, and could even be avoided in justifiable situations. But exhausting all other attempts to curb looting, which mind you, is doing far more *against* the civilization given the context than merely taking TV, there’s really no argument against using lethal force.

                      This isn’t analogous to shooting a petty thief in a normal situation, which police ought not do.

                    • “looting, which mind you, is doing far more *against* the civilization given the context”

                      Look… All crimes are a rejection of society’s rules and order. Pretending that looting is civilization ending is hyperbolic. It isn’t. Looting is not worse than murder. It is not worse than rape. It is a property crime. It is a vile, opportunistic property crime (At least in the context of TV’s and not food), but it is, at essence, still a property crime.

                      And even if we want to pretend that looting is some kind of crime category that is actually more serious than murder: We cannot empower police to play judge, jury and executioner. Period. Full stop.

                      https://imgflip.com/i/1uzsq2

                • Matthew B

                  The punishment for breaking a law must be proportional to the crime committed.
                  Looting is more than theft. It is an affront to civilization, striking those who are already harmed by the disaster and making it worse. It is a distraction to life saving efforts. Do you really think it isn’t a distraction to law enforcement? Officers who normally enforce such laws having to ignore the lawbreakers no doubt causes difficulty among already stressed people.

                  • This conversation is unhinged.

                    “Looting is more than theft.”

                    Sure,

                    “It is an affront to civilization, striking those who are already harmed by the disaster and making it worse. It is a distraction to life saving efforts.”

                    I think that’s a little over the top. But sure.

                    “Do you really think it isn’t a distraction to law enforcement?”

                    I would love you to quote what I said to give you this impression. Of course it’s a distraction.

                    “Officers who normally enforce such laws having to ignore the lawbreakers no doubt causes difficulty among already stressed people.”

                    What the hell are you even talking about?

                    I’ve never said *ignore* anything. I’m saying not to kill them. Are they breaking the law? Sure. Is it a more serious crime than theft? Sure. Is it a distraction? Absolutely.

                    But we don’t shoot people for distracting the police. Even for the most heinous of crimes imaginable, there is still due process. A man could rape, torture and murder a baby, and while the electric chair might await him at the end of the process… We still afford him the damn process. Because that’s what civilization is. Looting is *not* a greater “affront to civilization” than raping, torturing and murdering children, but empowering police to summarily execute, without cause, suspects just might be. I’m just saying.

                    • So you wouldn’t take whatever measures you had available to you *stop* a man *in the act of* raping, torturing or murdering a baby, or would you wait until he was done, then “afford him the damn process”?

                    • No, I’m pretty sure I would. I’m not convinced it would occur to me to kill said pedo-sadis-murder-phile as the *first* option available to me, but yes, I’d like to think I’d do what I could to stop it.

                      Just in case I wasn’t clear: My point wasn’t that baby torture rape murder and looting are morally equivalent, it was that they are different, that baby torture-murder-rape is worse (not the other way around… or do you disagree), and that the people saying that looting is civilization ending are unhinged.

                    • In before someone tries to misuse rationalization #22….

                      I’m not saying “baby murder rape torture is worse than looting, so don’t worry about the looting” I’m saying that even the worst possible offenders in our system have the right to due process. And just to remind everyone: That’s a feature, not a bug. Our system of laws is part of the reason our civilization exists, and fundamentally undermining that by allowing police to summarily convict and execute offenders is so antithetical to it that any of the idiots asserting that looting is the treat to civilization being discussed right now should reflect really long and hard on that.

                    • Jeez, HT: why are you confused by the difference between prosecuting/punishing someone for what they have done, and using necessary and even deadly force to stop them in the act? That latter is not punishment.

                    • Well, first off, it’s not the police’s job to prosecute or punish anyone. Duh. And second off, why the hell do you think it’s “necessary” to KILL looters to stop them?

                    • Wait, I lost count. Have I written that my answer to the quiz is NO, it’s not ethical to shoot looters, three times, or four?

                    • He says, pretending he didn’t just write “why are you confused by the difference between prosecuting/punishing someone for what they have done, and using necessary and even deadly force to stop them in the act? That latter is not punishment.

                      I’m confused, I guess, because this in no way actually applies to this situation, because it obviously isn’t necessary to shoot looters to stop them.

                      I’m confused, I guess, because if police could use the excuse that shooting suspects was merely stopping them from committing a crime, then it would seem that that abortion of logic could be extrapolated to other crimes, especially since looting is generally non-violent. Why not break up fights with bullets? Why not just shoot speeders off the road?

                    • Oh, but I see what you did there, you’re trying to pretend that the police AREN’T determining guilt and carrying out punishment when they shoot looters on sight. What, exactly, is it that you think they’re doing then?

                    • What is it that you think looters are doing? If an officer shoots a manic running at a crowd with an axe, that’s not punishment, that’s stopping a crime in progress.

                    • Are you really comparing the imminent threat of looting to the imminent threat of a deranged man running at a crowd with an axe?

                    • You are really determined to mistakenly call this punishment, aren’t you? Police do not administer punishment. They are authorized to enforce the law by preventing and discouraging crimes using authorized force. if a man with an axe raised rushes into a crowd, and a police officer shoots to stop him, that officer isn’t punishing the ax-wielder. He is stopping the crime in progress.

                    • “Mistakenly”. Sure. I’m still waiting for you to put into words what you think the difference in actions would look like. And I think the reason you’re ignoring the question is because you realize that your assertion doesn’t stand up to reality. The difference between using lethal force as the only possible way to prevent a crime and carrying out a death sentence for that crime exists only in semantics.

                    • But hey… Maybe I’m wrong! It’s happened before.

                      Could you explain to me what the functional difference is between !) an officer shooting a suspect, not in self defense, not out of concern of the safety of a third party, but because that is the designated reaction to a behavior pattern, and 2) the officer deeming an act to have occurred, deeming a person to have done that act, and carrying out the punishment reserved for that act, which in this case is death?

                    • 1. Someone who is in the process of looting is not a “suspect.”
                      2. You really insist on calling it punishment. Police do not administer punishment. The law doesn’t call it punishment. The function of law enforcement officers in the system isn’t punishment. It is force authorized to prevent crimes. Under martial law, certain conduct is regarded as more dangerous to the public, and thus more force can be justified. But its not punishment.
                      3. Shooting a looter in the process of looting is neither of your examples.

                    • “1. Someone who is in the process of looting is not a “suspect.””

                      Of course they are. Police do not make determinations of guilt, or at least they’re not supposed to. They could catch a person covered from head to toe in blood, holding a knife and standing over the corpse of a stabbing victim, and would still say “We apprehended a suspect”. If you don’t think they’re a suspect, what do you think they are? A convict?

                      “2. You really insist on calling it punishment. Police do not administer punishment.”

                      Well, they shouldn’t. But that’s what you’re arguing, whether you want to admit it or not.

                      “The law doesn’t call it punishment.”

                      The law doesn’t allow police to shoot people without cause, and “cause” in that context is clearly defined: The safety or the officer, the safety of a third party. Can you think of a single example that justifies police using lethal force that does *not* involve a physical threat?

                      “3. Shooting a looter in the process of looting is neither of your examples.”

                      Yes. They were. If you don’t believe they were, you need to put into words what you think the material differences are.

                      Here, I’ll remove the ambiguity.

                      “An officer shooting a suspect, not in self defense, not out of concern of the safety of a third party, but because that is the designated reaction to seeing someone looting”

                      “the officer deeming looting to have occurred, deeming a person to have looted, and carrying out the punishment reserved for that act, which in this case is death”

                    • Let me try to put it another way…

                      Do you not see how shooting a person in the commencement of an act deprives them of their due process?

                      I get it… when there are other people in danger, sometimes that isn’t

                    • Humble Talent wrote, “Do you not see how shooting a person in the commencement of an act deprives them of their due process?”

                      When you resort to this bogus argument that puts the due process rights of a person literally in the act of committing a violent crime (that’s why they usually get shot) over the rights of the people the criminal is acting against (violating the victim’s individual rights) then you’ve lost the ability to debate logically.

                    • Zoltar, you’re an idiot. And you’ve officially signed up for the Alizia treatment. I will never respond to anything you write ever again.

                    • Humble Talent wrote, “Zoltar, you’re an idiot.”

                      I didn’t personally insult you Humble Talent, I challenged your argument; so please explain to everyone the basis for insult insult. You might want to look up the word “idiot” before trying to explain yourself. I’ll hold my breath and wait………………….

                      Humble Talent wrote, “And you’ve officially signed up for the Alizia treatment. I will never respond to anything you write ever again.”

                      Oh no, HT isn’t going to respond to anything I write again; crap, there goes my good night sleep cycle for the foreseeable future. Whatever will I do?

                • joed68

                  I just thought of yet another option; shoot the TV.

              • John Billingsley

                I don’t think that shooting one looter, even fatally, is gong to stop looting. It might slow down the opportunistic looter who sees a broken store window and decides to grab a pair of sneakers but not the real problem which is people who are criminals and who see looting as just another opportunity to prey on society. Plenty of those types get shot all the time while in pursuit of their nefarious activities but it doesn’t seem to slow the rest down any.

                I was living in the Homestead, Florida area when Andrew hit and destroyed my house. Looting was a problem in the area. Some looters were shot but looting continued. What put an end to it was the widespread presence of people with guns and sticks patrolling the area. Everyone, excepting the bad guys I guess, was thrilled to see them. You want to stop looting, put lots of these guy on the street.

    • Of course I read it. The title was bad enough. Salon refused to make a distinction between stealing a TVs and stealing food, so I’ll take them at their word. Once you legalize stealing because you’ve decided you need it, then you have signed a death warrant for civilization.

      The Salon article dishonestly framed the question—didn’t you notice? The context is a natural disaster. Nobody is advocating shooting thieves. Lives are threatened when looters distract or interfere with law enforcement and rescue efforts. It’s not property over lives. It’s societal breakdown over lives. Salon, as usual, is facile and appealing to emotion.

      By the way, I vote no on the quiz, but it’s a close call.

      “A guy given a six month prison sentence for stealing bottled water” is also cheating. She’s choosing the easiest case while making a broad generalization. How about the hooded family cleaning out a family appliance business to sell the stuff later? I bet they can claim they are “foraging” too. I’m surprised you take the word-game bait. Does the fact that someone claims to be “foraging” justify them exchanging their poverty for mine because law enforcement has broken down? Did YOU read the article? I would be withing my rights to shoot them, if they broke into my home to “forage.” By Salon’s logic, I should just stand by and let them rob me while I’m trying to survive, because “it’s only property.”

      • Chris

        The Salon article dishonestly framed the question—didn’t you notice? The context is a natural disaster. Nobody is advocating shooting thieves. Lives are threatened when looters distract or interfere with law enforcement and rescue efforts.

        And you think having police shoot the looters will reduce the distractions?

  14. It seems to me that you really have to build this from the other direction: what are the rights of the people who aren’t looting? Are they allowed to quietly inhabit their buildings with guns at the ready, or is that a trap? If you own a store, is it provocative just to be there defending the place?

    • Why is it usually termed that the looters are desperate disaster victims? The ones being stolen from are. How many are smaller businesses and individuals who just don’t have the resources to recover? How many convenience stores in big cities are not part of some chain? It’s much easier to say ‘it’s only money’ when it’s not your money. That’s why this breakdown in law is so dangerous, the assumption, is that the looters are the only ones struggling. But also the store owners can be too. Looting water/food/medicines is on the line of forgivable, but not TVs or designer sneakers. ‘In the act’ means there is not time for nuanced questions of what is being stolen. (first responders is a nasty wrinkle, but if there weren’t any looters they would not be at risk either. How long until looters make themselves look like emergency personnel just for that?)

      I admit I don’t like the idea of shooting anyone during emergencies, there’s enough going on. But no other deterrence seems to be effective when everything else is broken, so I regretfully say yes, the order and permission is pragmatic. The decision to shoot the water scrounger or huge TV thief belongs to the officer on the scene, not armchair quarterbacks.

  15. Glenn Logan

    The answer to your question, in my view, is no, and yes.

    Any person convicted of looting should serve a mandatory 10-25 year sentence with no parole possible.

    Any armed looter should be shot on sight of the weapon unless he surrenders instantly. In other words, BANG… stop!…BANG.

  16. I believe it is ethical for police to shoot looters because I believe the first requirement of a community is public order. But there are serious practical problems with such an order, namely how to distinguish looters from law-abiding people. Both leaders and residents we’ll be carrying goods and hurrying. It can be very difficult to distinguish one from the other.

    I guess if I were in charge I would give the order along with an admonition to exercise it with great caution.

    • Interesting.

      “I believe it is ethical for police to shoot looters because I believe the first requirement of a community is public order.”

      Should police shoot rioters? If no, why not? If yes, should police shoot protesters? If no, why not?

      • Dear Humble–

        There’s a continuum of disorder, and at one end It is ethical for police to shoot and at the other end it is not (think of four people blocking a sidewalk).
        The test is whether order can be preserved (or restored) without shooting.
        If police are on the scene where one person is looting then it’s not permissible
        to shoot. At the other extreme, one cop in an evacuated area where it’s not possible to stop the offender(s) it is.

        • Christ that’s chilling… You seem to be saying that the test for whether police can shoot people depends on whether it’s too inconvenient for them not to.

          • “Convenience” isn’t the issue. Public safety
            is first priority, public order is next,

            • Correct, of course. I wonder why this is so difficult for so many people.

              • Because it’s a lie. Look… looters are vile people. But they’re stealing things. There is no “Public Safety” concern. There is a larger public safety concern during riots, just off the top of my head, and most riots consist of crowds too burdensome for the police to arrest everyone en masse…. But the answer to those situations isn’t to open fire on the rioters.

                • I agree. The answer also isn’t to let the looters and rioter run amuck. However, if a looter is shot, in the act of looting, after police have been orderedd to shoot looters and a warning has been made—it’s still not punishment for looting.

                  • True, it’s not punishment for looting. The question, however, is “how much force are we prepared to use to prevent people from stealing things from a disaster area?” Especially considering that the negative consequences of their actions mostly amount to business’s disaster insurance premiums going up, since looting will now be factored into predicted disaster damage?

                    What about under normal, non-disaster circumstances? Would it be a good policy to shoot people breaking into cars? What about graffiti artists? Or is it not as critical to use firearms here because a) cops aren’t spread so thin, and b) the “public order” is much more robust?

                  • You’re very insistent that that difference exists, but I still don’t see it.

                    For… I think the fourth time… Can you describe in words, not assertions what the differences in action would look like between shooting looters as the prescribed way to stop them from looting, and shooting people as the punishment for looting. Preferably in a way that isn’t entirely based in semantics.

    • Except that the question (Is it ethical to shoot looters?) implies there is an authority with a rifle assessing. If he yells out ‘Stop!’ it is right there that his necessary questions will be answered: of the suspect runs it is likely that he is a looter. If he stops the authority can determine if he is one.

      In a situation with dozens of people obviously looting the situation seems more clear. In that situation it is likely a certain good choice that shooting some is necessary for the higher purpose of law and order. The purpose of the killing is less to stop a thief and more in defense of the higher principle.

      I have to admit being moved by the argument that in a disaster situation if you are not helping those around you you are violating social ethics and morality. If in addition to not helping you are looking for ways to exploit you are definitely not paying attention to the higher principle. And if you are caught stealing you have sunk to the lowest point

  17. Other Bill

    I’m going to take this opportunity to make a comment that is only tangentially related to the quiz posed by Jack.

    I’m pretty darned sure that given the extensive social safety net in this country and the vast emergency response capability provided by both the government, NGOs and private citizens, no one, I repeat no one, ever needs to steal anything to survive in this country. People don’t even need to panhandle, for God’s sake. Anyone who loots is simply a thief.

  18. Speaking of stopping bad people who have absolute and utter disregard for civilization and the community, does anyone have any other sources on Sacramento planning on spending 1.5 million dollars to pay off gang members to stop killing?

    http://fox40.com/2017/08/29/sacramento-city-council-approves-advance-peace-program/amp/

    If this is true, then my head is on the verge of explosion. .

  19. I think we’re bogging down in questions of “are you denying a person due process?” “are you shooting a person over a trivial TV?” “is it more convenient to do this?” “isn’t this just granting a policeman the power to be judge jury and executioner on the spot?”.

    I think what we’re really looking to ask is “Is this the kind of scenario where we believe the community has broken down *enough* to warrant martial law?”

    Because I think, we can all agree, that in the abstract, there ARE situations in which Martial Law is justified and ethical. And in those situations, alot of normal protocols and protections built into the American society are suspended in terms of imperatives, though still guiding principles, are no longer absolute inhibitions on the authorities seeking to restore order.

    The real question is, and I think why Jack thinks in THIS situation, shooting looters is a close call for which he ultimately answers “No” is because the post-Harvey context Houston finds itself isn’t at Martial Law necessity…but maybe close to it.

    Now, maybe one can hold an absolutist stance that Martial Law is NEVER ethically justifiable…I don’t know. I think it is given the right conditions.

    I’m not certain Hurricane Harvey established those conditions.

    But let’s say that the conditions for Martial Law ARE present (whatever conditions you reason those are), is it ethical for the authority that has established Martial Law, to include in his/her orders, the command to shoot looters on sight?

    • I meme’d some Judge Dredd pictures at you earlier, and I wonder… Have you read any of the comics? In my younger years I took some in, and it strikes me now in a way it didn’t then, that in many ways, the writers really had to stretch to create a world distopian enough to make the Judges protagonists. The City, in many ways, became a character, in constant need of exposition and development, because the situations described were so foreign to American sensibilities that without them Dredd is an obvious villain.

      If we ever got to the point where we were desperate enough, disordered enough, that we really had no reasonable choice other than to shoot people in the commission of non-violent crimes… Then I think civilization would be basically over. I’m not saying that couldn’t happen, but for that to actually be on the plate, so many other pillars would have had to fall first, that I don’t think anyone would really care about it.

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