64 Percent of College Students Say Rioting and Looting is ‘Justified'

4 ¼ min

More rioting and looting broke out in American cities this week. This time, it was Philadelphia consumed by violence after a police shooting.

According to ABC News, at least 30 police officers have been injured in the violent unrest, while dozens of people have been arrested for rioting or vandalism. Mobs have descended on Walmart and rushed out carrying TVs, while other agitators ransacked Footlocker for new sneakers. The full number of businesses ravaged by the destruction is increasing and still being tallied.

This latest outbreak simply adds to the thousands of businesses, from Chicago to Minneapolis and beyond, that have been rioted, ransacked, burned down, or looted in the ongoing period of political unrest over police brutality, both real and imagined. All told, the damage from rioting in recent months will exceed any past period of civil unrest in American history, with even modest under-estimates putting the total cost at up to $2 billion.

The outbreak of mass rioting and looting across America is alarming in its own right, but equally chilling is the public’s support for the violence. As first reported by the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, a new poll finds that college students in particular overwhelmingly believe that rioting and looting is justified.

The poll was conducted by Mclaughlin & Associate in conjunction with Yale University’s conservative William F. Buckley Program. It surveyed a nationally representative sample of 800 college students on a wide array of issues, from the coronavirus to race in America.

One key finding from the poll was that 64 percent of college students agreed that “the recent rioting and looting is justified to some degree.” Only 28 percent disagreed with this assessment.


Image Credit: McLaughlin & Associates

What this result really conveys is that many of today’s young people neither understand nor respect the importance of property rights in a free society. And this is deeply misguided. Even if you’re concerned about racism in America and support criminal justice reform, property rights are essential.


Property rights are human rights. As economist Murray Rothbard once explained:

The human right of every man to his own life implies the right to find and transform resources: to produce that which sustains and advances life. That product is a man’s property. That is why property rights are foremost among human rights and why any loss of one endangers the others.

Many left-leaning young people likely rooted their disdain for property rights in the notion that they only really matter to “Big Business” or “the rich.” (And themselves, of course). This is mistaken. In fact, the rich, safe neighborhoods aren’t the ones being looted. The destructive acts are disproportionately victimizing urban, poorer neighborhoods and minority-owned businesses.

And the long-term fallout of attacks on property rights haunts society’s most vulnerable the most. As famed economist Thomas Sowell put it, property rights “belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.”

Why? Well, property rights are the foundation of a capitalist economy.

The calculation of costs and benefits that underlies a profit-driven economy relies on the protection of property rights. If business owners and investors can’t feel secure in their property in an area, they take their investment elsewhere. This means that in areas that are looted, there are fewer jobs and fewer opportunities over time.

Hence, as Sowell observed, property rights serve everyone.

So, if young people really care about social justice, they shouldn’t downplay and justify looting. They ought to understand that no matter the cause, violating property rights isn’t “progressive” at all.


This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Image Credit: 

Flickr-mark sebastian, CC BY-SA 2.0

Brad Polumbo

Brad Polumbo

Brad Polumbo is an editor at the libertarian media nonprofit Young Voices. His work has appeared in USA Today, The Daily Beast, and National Review. You can find him on Twitter @Brad_Polumbo.

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The most spoiled, ignorant masses, ever to exist, is the product of a society that expects everything to be perfect without knowing what it takes to produce something as simple as a pencil. https://fee.org/resources/i-pencil/


You sum them up rather well. They also fit to a tee President Reagan's definition of a hippy, which was "A hippy is someone who dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheetah."
The question says "justified to some degree." I think "a little bit justified" is like "a little bit pregnant," but what I think it means has no bearing on what the people answering the survey thought it means. Without running another survey, I can only assume that if the question was simply "riots and looting are justified" that the number of people agreeing would be less.


East Atlanta
I was in college in the late sixties, so I remember protests. By and large the protests then were peaceful (with some exceptions), along the lines taught by Dr. King. Peaceful mass protests are much more effective that street thuggery, which is what we are seeing now. Just another example, I suppose, of the polarization of thought brought about by modern 24 hour media and social media.


I still have my draft card. College then was a much more serious endeavor than today. We protested war, the draft attended is God dead debates. But maybe that’s looking at it through the lens of time.
I was there, too. My medical career was sidelined by the Seattle protests...looting, burning, riots...dangerous and impossible to navigate a job and studies.
Wonder what these clueless respondents would think if they were faced with rioters and looters trespassing on and destroying their property, that is if they have any at all? I bet then they would think twice about viewing lawlessness as "justified."


Then shooting rioters/looters, by similar logic, should also be justified, yes??