At ACE, I enjoyed reading people with different perspectives debating the question of what is right and wrong regarding looting in a broken down situation like New Orleans (see comments).

Looting For Survival

Many are distinguishing between looting for suvival-goods — water, food, diapers, etc. — and simply looting for profit — DVD players, jewelry, etc.

I think that’s a fair distinction. Anyone caught in the disaster area doesn’t have the goods-delivery system they’ve come to depend upon, and they simply don’t know when the National Guard or relief organizations will come to help distribute them.

Notions about the rule of law tend to go out the window when you don’t know if you’ll have drinkable water in two days’ time, or if your baby will have milk.

[more…]

Clayton adds more.

A brief psychology explanation:

NEW LONDON, Conn., Sept. 1 (AScribe Newswire) — Jason Nier, Connecticut College associate professor of psychology, explains this behavior as “deindividuation,” in which people lose their sense of self-awareness and no longer feel like they will be held accountable for their actions, which leads them often to act in ways that they normally would not.

“Normally people’s behavior is governed by their own values, as well as societal values, to ‘do the right thing,’ but under some circumstance, which are clearly evident in the aftermath of Katrina, people’s behavior is no longer constrained by such moral codes,” Nier said.

Nier added that the product of “deindividuation” is usually – but not always – anti-social, non-normative behavior, of which looting is a prime example.

“Another factor that is likely promoting the looting is the idea that everyone is getting away with it,” Nier said. “When people see others looting seemingly at will and without consequence, the message that comes clearly comes across is ‘this behavior will not be punished,’ which obviously encourages more to engage in the looting.”

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