Should Looting Be Considered A Crime After A Disaster?

It seems that one of the only common thread to any social groups in any culture or country after a natural disaster is an inability for the governmental authorities to bring necessary help to its people, and further to care more about the dissolution of the social order, in its more raw expression which is looting, than the basic welfare of the victims.

Looting  took place in New-Orleans post Katrina, in took place in Haiti after January 12 earthquake, and it is taking place right now in Chile, specifically in the city of Concepcion, which was the closest to the epicenter of February 27 massive 8.8 earthquake.

Chileans in Conception are in shocked, and just like the residents trapped in New-Orleans in 2005 and the million of Haitians still very much in need today feel, for very good reasons, abandoned  by their respective governments. They are homeless, thirsty and hungry. Under such circumstances it is absolutely understandable that social order would break down quickly and that ordinarily perfectly law abiding citizens resolve to looting.

Yet, governments  independently from any geographic considerations   or even political ideological views always put the accent on social order and “controlling the masses” as opposed to bringing some help to its  people which  it is supposed to protect.

It was the case in New-Orleans where the National Guard (see first photograph) and Blackwater were dispatched to maintain order. The same of course applied to Haiti, where the US dispatched a massive amount of troops for the same purpose. And it is now the direction which the left leaning government of Chile has taken towards the victims of the earthquake. Today, Chile’s President sent  10,000 soldiers to maintain order in Concepcion.

Concepcion’s Mayor Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe expressed this concern today in her own way.

“We need food for the population. We are without supplies and if we don’t resolve that we are going to have serious security problems during the night,” said the Mayor. Once again, the Mayor expressed the key concern of any authorities in such situation: The first priority is order and “security”, the second is the survival of the population.

What I think should be done in such tragic situations is the exact opposite. Any store owners in possession of supplies should be obligated to let the population take what they need, providing they don’t have the humanity to do it on a voluntary basis. And instead of sending soldiers brandishing guns to “maintain order”, a more human form of government would dispatch its soldiers with large quantities of blankets, bottle water and food. There is no moral justification that should allow any governments to victimized in such a way its own people. Survival should always be more important than social order under such dire circumstances.

Good governance should be about the welfare of the people, and not about maintaining, often brutally, social order. It is of course the common “Standard Operative Procedure” of all governments, but it is still, regardless, completely lacking any sort of moral justification.

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