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Is it ethical to stockpile groceries during the coronavirus crisis?
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Creates a massive sense of panic in an already unstable society

As increasing numbers of people begin stockpiling, visible shortages around stores become evident. Social media tends to hype these events more and more. This leads to a state of chaos and panic causing more people to stockpile.

The Argument

As COVID-19 spread across all regions of the world, shelves and entire aisles in some of the largest grocery chains were wiped clean. Videos of people fighting over toilet paper went viral and grocery sales all across America increased by more than 200%.[1] All of these actives poured fuel onto the raging fire of panic caused by the pandemic. As necessities such as bread and dairy products started to dwindle, an increasing number of people started resorting to stockpiling resources. With threats from the media of national shortages, the situation only worsened. Stockpiling groceries creates a sense of panic that supplies are not adequate; this drives more people to stockpile and eventually shortages result. Such shortages lead to tides of anxiety and fear. These shortages, however, are not a result of a failure in the industrial supply-chain process but they are a direct consequence of people’s frantic and irrational behavior. This shows how unethical purchasing practices can lead to massive disturbances and shatter any sign of order in an already disturbed society. Psychologists have studied this phenomenon in much detail. During any time of panic such as a natural disaster, people tend to deal with the situation by being as prepared as possible. This means they practice loss aversion[2]: a concept that essentially translates into people buying large quantities of items so they don't regret not buying enough at a later time. With coronavirus, there was much uncertainty regarding the duration of lockdown. This lead people to fill their basements with massive amounts of toiletries and non-perishable food products. Some saved for a couple of weeks while others bought enough supplies to last them months. This naturally caused visible shortages in some stores and caused more panicked people to participate in stockpiling. This heightened sense of panic was further fueled by the media dramatizing this event. The activities of a few irrational shoppers soon turned into a revolving cycle of panic and stockpiling.

Counter arguments

Stockpiling resources does not lead to more panic. If anything, it serves as a measure to alleviate fear and anxiety as people feel more prepared in the face of the pandemic. Right around when stockpiling resources became a widespread practice, governors all across the country and the world were declaring states of emergency. On March 11, 2020, WHO- World Health Organization- characterized it as a pandemic. [3]During such times of uncertainty, the only clear piece of information that was constantly repeated was to stay at home and practice social distancing. Such measures would only be possible if people had plenty of food and supplies at home. So as people began to stockpile, they were essentially taking all the right measures to participate in the lockdown. They were simply preparing themselves for this time of uncertainty. As more and more individuals and families started feeling more prepared and became adjusted to the new reality, they were able to spread this positivity and message of resilience to their family and friends. This could have only resulted in less panic and strife throughout the community.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 16 Jun 2020 at 19:51 UTC

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