Call in the National Guard
I’m on record for saying that the supply chain issues are overblown. Why? This is Day One, Adam Smith economics: as we see prices rise due to higher costs for manufacturing and imports, demand will wane (with the one exception being veblen goods, but that’s another topic for another time). And prices are rising: in 2020 alone, consumer prices rose 75% more than at any other point in history. If you’re a large retailer, with a deep bench of vendors, the chances are the supply chain issues will not be catastrophic to your business, or to your customers. That is, if we all choose to behave rationally.
But the media has decided that it’s too enticing of a narrative to pass up.
This morning, Good Morning America featured a piece that forecasted Etsy as being a haven for those looking for more certainty in an otherwise highly uncertain holiday gifting season. The rationale—Etsy’s core business is small business creators who offer personalized gifts that are made-to-order. In the piece, they also advocated for shopping local wherever possible.
But the length of the piece took me by surprise. This “supply chain issues” narrative is now dangerously close to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy—if we trigger panic buying we’ll create a deeper issue in agriculture and basic needs categories like toilet paper, which currently aren’t under duress.
My proposed solution: bring in the National Guard. Ports like Long Beach are backed up due to the lack of crane operators to offload boats, drivers to remove containers, and long-haul truckers to transport the containers out of the state. This is due to reduced working hours in Covid, The Great Resignation, and striking union workers. If the State of California were to declare a state of emergency, and bring in the National Guard, these issues could be alleviated within 30 days. The National Guard can work tirelessly, with endless resources, to free up the current logjam. That logjam at Long Beach is having deep impacts on the surrounding area, like increased pollution for one Los Angeles suburb.
This isn’t without its downsides. As my Twitter thread details, this would be an unprecedented display of power on home soil. This would be a measure of last resort. As a Floridian, I have witnessed the National Guard in action, as I’ve been present for a dozen hurricanes in my four decades of residency in the state. The National Guard do not quit, and will not fail at this mission. It would free up our ports, and instill confidence in markets—something that the central bank “just printing more money” cannot do.
The supply chain failing would be a concern of National Defense proportions. While the Biden administration have already proposed public/private partnership to solve the current problems, we run the risk of the public panic exacerbating an already delicate situation.
We should deploy the National Guard to free up the ports. Do you have thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Reply to this email or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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