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Acton Institute says looting hurts the poor, but fails to cite one single person who is actually poor in their argument

June 17, 2020

The Acton Institute once again has it all backwards. Last week, one of their main writers, Rev. Ben Johnson, posted an article entitled, 6 ways looting hurts the poor

The Acton writer provides a brief intro, before presenting his 6 arguments. However, he concludes the introductory comments with one accurate statement, where he says:

Looting and riots are sometimes presented as “a lashing-out against capitalism,” or even a form of reparations. But here are 6 ways looting most harms the poorest people.

The hyperlink that says reparations has nothing to do with reparations. In fact, the hyperlink is to a far right blogging site, that is explicitly anti-antifa. Rev. Johnson clearly dismisses looting as a form of anti-capitalism or reparations, and he just wants to get on with convincing us how looting hurts the poor.

Before critiquing the 6 arguments that the Acton writer presents, it is worth noting that nowhere in his article does Rev. Johnson cite someone who is poor or experiencing poverty. In fact, he only cites business people, elected officials and a religious leader.

Argument #1Looting deprives poor and minority communities of essential services. Politicians are cited and one unidentified woman, but no one who is actually poor or from communities of color is sourced in this argument. Rev. Johnson mentions food deserts and how people have to travel long distances to get food. Food deserts are a euphemistic term for Food Apartheid, which means that the lack of access to food for poor black or poor latinx residents is because of the the history of food systems that are based on profits, rather than on food justice. 

Argument #2Looting drives away businesses and jobs. Rev. Johnson provides no real evidence to support this argument, only anecdotal references to the WalMart and Target stores that were looted in Minneapolis. Again, only politicians and business people are cited. What Rev. Johnson doesn’t mention is the fact that most of the items taken from the Target store in Minneapolis were then set up in a makeshift camp, where people who needed these items could take them. This is what many of us call a Really, Really, Free Market. 

Argument #3Looting leads to a population drain. Again, the Acton writer has it wrong. He cites Detroit as an example, after the 1967 riot. The reality is that White people had been fleeing to the suburbs of Detroit way before the 1967 riot, because white people did not want to live with black people. It’s called White Flight. See the excellent book by Scott Kurashige, The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How The US Political Crisis Began in Detroit.

Argument #4Looting erodes the tax base. Here the Acton writer is just being ridiculous, since they argue that looting causes people to leave urban area, thus less money for city services. The reality is that cities services are primarily for white people and members of the Capitalist class. The only real city services that those living in poverty (which are primarily black and brown residents) receive are policing, which most often means policing that negatively impacts communities of color who are living in poverty.

Argument #5Looting causes long-term economic damage. Here Rev. Johnson is blaming looting for unemployment and the decline of the black family medium income. Again, the Acton writer lives in a world of deep racial and economic privilege, since unemployment and the decline in black family income is the direct result of structural racism and the wealth gap, which has been created by exploitation, tax policies and the re-direction of public money to the private sector.

Argument #6Looting makes the church’s job harder. Here Rev. Johnson cites a pastor in Chicago who wrote an article in publication, The American Conservative, which should tell you something about the pastor. Rev. Johnson obviously does not come from  a liberationist view of the church, like that of the murdered Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero. Rev. Johnson comes from the hierarchical church, which spent centuries looting communities all around the world, as is documented in Eduardo Galeano’s book, Open Veins of Latin American.

As we have documented over the years, the Acton Institute acts as an apologist for the Neo-liberal Capitalism and its members, who are part of the business class and only see the poor as opportunities to practice charity. As the founder of the Acton Institute Rev. Sirico once said, when quoting Mother Theresa: 

We don’t have the right to condemn the rich. We don’t believe in class struggle and class warfare. We believe in class encounter. Where the rich save the poor and the poor save the rich.”

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