Will You Soon Be Foraging for Food?
Posted January 11, 2022
I’ve always been against alarmism. In my lifetime, it’s always been wrong. And there has never been a shortage of apocalyptics there who are happy to predict this disaster or that. It’s a joy to see them disproven, time after time. For my entire lifetime, things have only gotten better, with a few missteps along the way. Generally, our experience is that if you wait things out, life goes back to normal on its upwards and onwards trajectory.
The problem with the past is that it tricks us into believing that it is our future. That is not the case if something dramatic intervenes. That intervention consisted of the appalling decision to shut down the economy nearly two years ago. That was followed by unprecedented spending by the government, debt accumulation, and money printing like we’ve never seen. Government set out to smash markets. It achieved that to a significant degree.
We all hoped against hope that the madness would end after a few weeks. It kept going. Then we hoped it would end after a few months. It kept going. Now here we are two years in. I’m not sure what it is like for you in your community but for me, this is the first time I’ve ever been to a regular store and seen goods unavailable on shelves. Shelves are precious real estate for any retailer. To let them sit empty is a disaster. And yet there they are. Empty.
Public: Do Not Panic
Americans can watch news all day, glued to the TV, imbibing all the wisdom of the talking heads, listening to testimony, reading the data, deferring to the experts. But there is something especially tactile and telling about going to the local grocery store and encountering empty shelves. You ask the proprietors what is going on. They don’t know. All they know is that their usual providers are not providing.
This is the beginning of something that absolutely alarms the powers that be. If regular people really do believe that there is some question about whether they can get the ingredients they need to put food on the table, whether they can hop down to the local restaurant and get their favorite meal, whether they can fill their stomachs a few times a day, you really do face serious regime uncertainty. It could be worse. The peasants could revolt.
And so the Washington Post, which today still works to signal the ruling class on the things they should say and do, has weighed in with some answers. The question is: why are goods not on the selves? The answer comes in four parts. Each of them makes some degree of sense because they are not entirely false. But none of them speak to the seriousness of what we face right now.
Let us examine each excuse in the order in which they are presented.
Number one: Omicron’s surge
It’s true that many people in this country are very sick now. Some for a few days. Some for weeks. There are limited therapeutics available for Covid (Thanks Fauci!). People have to suffer at home. Then they worry that they can infect others, and we’ve all been trained (our minds invaded) over two years to think that the worst thing you can ever do is pass on a virus, even if it is mild. So yes, we stay away from others. We are responsible. And we can call in sick.
Millions are doing that now. Emptying the offices of workers is not the best means of boosting productivity. The meat packing plants have been hit. The truck drivers. The people who stock the shelves. The labor shortage is as bad right now as it will ever be, or so we hope. There are not enough people to do the job of keeping normal society functioning.
But step back slightly. In two years, we’ve deferred to these people to control the virus. They completely failed. The surges are truly beyond belief, if you ever did believe that they could achieve this amazing feat never before achieved in history of crushing a virus by force. The data now on infections have made an absolute mockery of the pandemic response.
Number Two: Winter weather
Amazing how the weather trope never gets old in terms of explaining shortages. They used it for decades in the Soviet Union. Every socialist country did this. But here’s the thing: weather is part of the natural world and markets have learned to adapt. It is not a shock that there is snow and ice. The real question is why we haven’t adapted this time, and why did the snow and ice so completely disable the ability to get food on the table in the last three weeks.
Number Three: Supply chain snarls
“Supply chain problems are no longer just about shipping containers sitting in ports or out at sea, waiting to be unloaded,” the paper explains. “They are also about the slowing of the production of goods that the United States imports.”
This is absolutely true. International trade has broken down due to tariffs, diplomatic failures, and rolling lockdowns that have affected all but a few countries on the entire planet earth. Suddenly the progress of hundreds of years is being reversed. So much of our high standard of living is due to trade that we hardly think about it anymore. Take away that trade and we feel it very intensely.
Oh but also, never forget that the government is here to protect you. “There are some empty shelves that are more about food safety,” the paper informs us. “The Food and Drug Administration last week issued a voluntary recall on certain bagged salads and other vegetables due to possible listeria contamination.”
Yep, I’m sure that the listeria threat is quite intense. Surely you would rather go without food than risk that!
Number Four: More people eating at home
This is an interesting sociological phenomenon that I’m sure you can relate to. People started going out to eat earlier this year, if only to defy the powers that be who kept telling us for the previous year to completely avoid restaurants. To heck with it, we said. Out we went.
But then an amazing thing started to happen. We had a look at our credit card bills. Going out to eat seems somewhere between 20% and 50% higher than it was last year, mostly due to food shortages and staffing changes that have vastly increased costs for restaurants. They have sneakily been attempting to pass on these higher costs. God bless them. It’s totally understandable.
But at some point, one realizes that the joy of eating out is somewhat mitigated by the reality of seeing our bank accounts depleted in astonishing ways. So it’s true that people have started to pillage the grocery stores again, same as they did in 2020. It saves money. But the stores cannot keep up with the demand.
The Washington Post didn’t add a fifth point, but we can.
Number Five: They are wrecking life as we’ve known it.
This is not a point the mainstream press is willing to consider, but it is a serious one. We are nowhere near the end of this crisis. The aftereffects of what they have done to us will resonate for many years. At this point, we are lucky to have what we have. It’s been a very difficult adjustment for millions of people suddenly to realize that all the blessings we have heretofore enjoyed might be suddenly taken away, due to bureaucratic incompetence, political manuervering, and despotic ambitions.
But that is where we are. The population is not yet panicked. We are still assured that all of this is temporary. Maybe. Maybe this is just the winter and the spring will come again soon. Life will return to normal, just as we have kept expecting for the last two years. At this point, and I’m not a betting man, I would give it less than a 50% chance.