I’ve seen umpteen people compare the looting and riots occurring to the Son’s of Liberty in the Boston Tea Party. They’re not the same. Writing for the Federalist, Joshua Lawson points out that the Boston Tea Party was not about plundering for person gain. They didn’t loot the ships for the tea, they dumped into the harbor. They didn’t burn down the ships, they didn’t cause physical harm to people. The only injury in the Boston Tea Party was one of the Son’s of Liberty who was hit by a tea crate. The only personal item damaged was a lock which was replaced by the Son’s of Liberty. The looting largely went after personal property. The Boston Tea Party was specifically a protest against the government.
But all of this raises an important philosophical question. If you look at the Boston Tea Party as a justification for rioting and looting today as a response to an unfair system, to oppression, as long as the system is the way that it is, by the logic of your justification, shouldn’t rioting and looting be justified at anytime until the system is changed? Honest question. If someone looting tonight or last weekend was justified, why shouldn’t that also be justified six weeks from now? Or six months from now? If someone is looting in opposition to injustice, how do you put a timeline on when it is and isn’t acceptable? Where’s the consistency?
I maintain that it’s wrong to steal and it’s wrong to harm private businesses. It undermines the vast majority of demonstrators who are peaceful and law abiding citizens. Not only is the looting morally wrong, it’s also counterproductive. It’s wrong to steal and it’s wrong to hurt private businesses.
The Boston Tea party also brought consequences upon the colonies where Britain passed the “Intolerable Acts” in retaliation. They did have to pay for that rebellion. Being a revolutionary has consequences. I find it interesting that people talk of the horrors of troops being used in major cities to help regain civil obedience. But for rioters who are talking and acting like revolutionaries, what should they expect? Above all else, the job of government is to maintain law and order. It’s shameful that mayors were allowing people to ride roughshod in their cities over the weekend. That is a disservice to their communities.
Again, I’m not talking about the peaceful protesters. And I know the vast majority of protesters are peaceful and have a right to be angry and to protest. But society should have no acceptance of those who seek to cause looting and destruction.
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