It makes sense to wonder why it didn’t. What is it about this particular era that has inspired this particular trend?
Here, then, is another pet theory: The social covenant has shattered.
Meaning the thousand unspoken understandings by which a society functions, the agreements to which we all sign on without a word being spoken.
Some are encoded in law, others just encoded in us.
Either way, they are rules — “norms” might be a better word — people usually obey even when they could get away without doing so.
You don’t stand facing the back wall of an elevator. In heavy traffic, you take turns merging. You stop at the red light even when the street is deserted.
And, oh yes, you don’t join a mob to ransack a store.
While there is almost certainly some hardcore criminality leading this crime wave, one suspects that many of its foot soldiers are people with little in the way of serious police records.
How much do you want to bet most of them will turn out to be ordinary, workaday folk who got the word there was free stuff to be had, and all you had to do was take it, like some giddy holiday from social norms?
Where would they have gotten the idea such a holiday was even possible?
Surely the opportunistic looting that marred last year’s largely peaceful protests for racial justice helped influence them. But that’s hardly the only — or, arguably, even the most corrosive — transgression of social norms we’ve seen in recent years.
To the contrary, we’ve seen police and other authority figures exempt themselves from mask and vaccine mandates — and dare mayors and governors to do anything about it.
We’ve seen ex-public officials thumb their noses at congressional subpoenas.
We’ve seen a seditionist mob breach the U.S. Capitol and be lionized for it by certain members of Congress and the media.
And we’ve seen a president who delighted in shattering norms, refusing to provide his tax returns, flouting the emoluments clause of the Constitution, openly politicking on government property … the list goes on. And on.
Worst of all, we’ve seen little in the way of accountability for any of it.
So the question isn’t how ordinary people could have gotten the idea a holiday from social norms was possible, but how could they have not?
Everywhere you look, someone else is seceding from the covenants that make it possible for civil society to function.
Which makes these smash-and-grab robberies seem less a mystery and more just another troubling reflection of our times.
Why would people do this?
Heck, why would they not?