As far as I can tell, it is not currently illegal. (If you know of any legislation prohibiting hoarding, please e-mail me. Put the phrase “Anti-hoarding Legislation” in the subject line.) However, this doesn’t mean that the government won’t pass anti-hoarding legislation as we get nearer to Y2K.
In terms of morality, we have to distinguish between hoarding and stockpiling. According to my definition, “hoarding” is what people do in a crisis when food is scarce and demand is high relative to the supply. In these kinds of situations people get very self-centered (e.g., “Gimme that loaf of bread. I had my hands on it first!”) and fearful.
This is also what happens when people don’t stockpile. “Stockpiling” is what prudent people do when food is plentiful and demand is low relative to the supply. I do not approve of hoarding, but I do encourage stockpiling. In fact, the more people stockpile now, the less hoarding there will be later.
The truth is that all of us practice stockpiling to one degree or another. If you ever shopped at a wholesale club, you’ve likely bought more than you needed. This is probably true even when you go to the grocery store. We generally buy more than we can consume in any one meal. Why? Because it is more convenient and less expensive to do it this way. All I am suggesting is that we move beyond convenience and think even further ahead. If we find that we don’t need such a large stockpile of food, we can simply consume what we have or donate it to a local charity.
But let me add a twist: Stockpiling for yourself and your own family is not sufficient. You may disagree, but I believe I have a moral obligation to care for others. Unlike Cain of old, I believe that “I am my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9). To the extent that I have the ability, I have a duty to prepare for those who either don’t have the resources (e.g., the sick, the elderly, the poor) or the foresight to prepare for themselves. I’ll help the former first and the latter last, but, if push comes to shove, I’ll try to do what I can for anyone who asks (Matthew 5:42).
Perhaps you are wondering if the government might confiscate your food in an emergency like Y2K. Executive Order 10998 signed by John F. Kennedy in 1962 gives the Secretary of Agriculture the right to control food and food production in case of attack or other national emergency. Whether or not this could be applied to Y2K-related disruptions is anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that by declaring a national State of Emergency, Congress can, in effect, suspend the Constitution and do whatever it thinks is in the best interests of the country. If that includes confiscating your stockpile of food, so be it. This shouldn’t keep you from preparing, but it should keep you from trusting in your preparations. Ultimately, the only thing that can protect you from a tyrannical government is God Himself.