I keep seeing public officials offer up this slogan:
Life is more valuable than property.
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) May 30, 2020
And I keep wondering: Why? That “life is more valuable than property”
The mantra is particularly ill-fitting in this case, because there is scant disagreement about the injustice of the proximate cause. Almost everyone in America — Democrat, Republican, libertarian, socialist — agrees that what happened to Floyd was appalling. Hell, most police departments agree, and many are going out of their way to say so. As far as I can see, almost nobody has said, “well, the killing was bad, but what happened to Target was worse.” At whom, exactly, is the insistence aimed?
I have come across some people who are openly defending the riots because they believe that they will lead to change. This is a separate argument to Demings’s, although I suppose one could squint her words into that meaning. Either way, those people are wrong. The most likely consequence of these riots will be a diminishment in the number of minority-owned businesses; a reduction in long-term investment in America’s poorer areas; and, if history is any guide, an uptick in support for the sort of politicians who are the least likely to support reform. As a matter of amoral realpolitik — and the “riots work!” argument is an argument from amoral realpolitik — the best way to ensure that life is deemed valuable is to avoid property damage, not to engage in it.