The mainstream news reports panic buying in the rush to stock up on essentials in the light of COVID-19. But is it panic buying or is it getting sensibly prepared? When governments plan for future needs it’s called stockpiling. If we do it it’s hoarding. The first implies rational behaviour, the second irrational.
The point to note here is that those thinking ahead and buying while stocks last are practising rational behaviour, albeit at the last minute. If you observe factors in the world that suggest supply chains are threatened it is rational to anticipate shortages. If shortages are likely it is rational to stock up so as to hedge against them. Exercising your rational faculty is your human means of survival. The BBC and other s0-called ‘news’ sources ridicule rational preparation behaviour and label it “panic buying”. This is sad but it is not surprising. We are living in anti-rational times.
Information – true or false?
We get information about the world from multiple sources but many of these are not trustworthy. You must evaluate everything you hear in the context of the total sum of your knowledge and always check for contradictions – they flag an error, something is wrong. Given that governments have a track record of lying to their citizens it is rational to treat what they say with caution. And, therefore, to listen to other sources that contradict what they say. If those other sources have served you reliably with verified truth in the past it is rational to give them more weight and credibility than the words of a known liar. But the bottom line is this. Which argument makes sense to you logically in the full context of the rest of your knowledge? Always look for the rational argument, not an appeal to your emotions or any other persuasive assertion without a reasoned argument to back it up. The reasoned argument leads to truth – nothing else!
The process of discerning truth from fiction is challenging yet vital to human success. If you evade the effort of doing so you will remain uncertain and feel anxious. But sometimes you cannot know the truth of every detail. Sometimes you have to evaluate certainty and make a judgment based on what is more likely to be true, or more probable. This is when the track record of information sources can be your only means of evaluation! It is also shows that we need to continually expand and update our knowledge as a way of life. it is the only way to avoid falling into the trap of incorrect official advice!
The only alternative to rational evaluation is to simply do as you are told. And, of course, this is precisely what you are being advised to do – by your government. In fact, your best bet is always to think and reason for yourself! It is never too late to begin acquiring knowledge as a way of life.
What is Panic?
According to Wikipedia panic is a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction. Panic may occur singularly in individuals or manifest suddenly in large groups as mass panic.
Panic occurs when people are taken by surprise. It’s a consequence of a lack of awareness. It is when you become aware too late. But it is still a rational attempt to catch up on lost time and do that which should have been done already. The point is to not be intimidated by the derogatory use of the term, and don’t be dissuaded from sensibly preparing yourself for your anticipated future needs in the full context of global events.
It is undeniably sensible to be prepared.
It’s not fair!
There is an argument that if you sensibly anticipate what is going to happen and buy a couple of months worth of supplies it is unfair! What about all the people who don’t choose to do the same? the argument goes. Everyone should be rationed to one or two of each item in a supermarket. That way it is fair and everybody gets their fair share.
If you step back a moment and consider a few things you can see that this argument is one that protects the unthinking from the consequences of not thinking. Furthermore, it punishes those who do think rationally and plan. But everyone is free to use their mind. Everyone has an equal opportunity to learn and acquire knowledge that will increase their ability to make sense of the world and know what to do. Is it right that those who exercise their faculty of reason and act properly are penalised in order to bail out those who do not? This would disincentivise the whole concept of thinking rationally and planning rationally for the future! What humanity needs is more thinking and rational planning not less. Rationing is the political means of punishing those who think and bailing out those who choose not to.
Nigel Howitt, March 2020