Okay my arm still hurts, and I don't know why.... I'm going to make an appointment to see the doctor today...
But back to looting. Most people think that looting in general is wrong. It would be wrong for me to take my class to Wal-Mart and by shear force of numbers overwhelm them and take their goods. (I'm stipulating that looting is a group action. You can't loot by yourself, you loot with other people. Looting by yourself is just stealing or shoplifting....)
However, when we are faced with drastically different circumstances, is looting okay? Some might simply say, "yes... because my survival is at stake." But clearly this isn't going to be a good enough justification, ethically speaking. To abide by some moral obligations, I may have to sacrifice my own life to fullfill them e.g. jumping on a grenade that threatens to kill the members of my platoon.
I want to say that looting is morally permissible under the following condition.... that those around you fail in their obligation to refrain from looting. I see looting as a group responsibility. Some group responsibilities decrease in obligation because many are failing to follow their duty. E.g. if many people are walking on the grass, when there is a sign that is posted to not walk on the grass... as people fail in the duty, the obligation to not walk on the grass begins to erode. Once people have pounded a pathway through the grass, its rather irrelevant that I continue to walk around the grass, rather than on the pounded pathway.
Now as people loot, the obligation for you to refrain from looting also gets pounded away. The owner of the property will inevitably have ownership of all of his useful property looted. Now, it would be LESS advantageous for a single person to horde a great deal of resources in a disaster scenario, than for the resources to be spread amongst many people. Aid will eventually come, whats needed is to bridge the interim time between the disaster and the response. 100 cans of beans is in all likelihood more than enough to get by on. In fact, it would deprive others from being able to survive the interim, if you horde more than you need. So once the looting begins, each individual who loots actually increases the utility of the act (looting).
One might respond that they have been responsible... They piled up supplies before the earthquake in an event of an emergency. Then arguably, one could still loot, and give the looted supplies to those who could benefit from them, and did not have the capability of looting because they were injured or trapped.
Of course this all assumes life or death scenarios. Looting wouldn't be permissible if the San Jose Sharks failed to win the Stanley Cup..... Again....