OPIONION

COVID provides hard lesson in global economics

Posted 9/24/20

We have dedicated many inches of copy in this space talking about the ongoing pandemic - and for good reason. Thankfully, producing the written word can be accomplished whether at the office or at home, and there is no finite supply on the letters of the

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in
OPIONION

COVID provides hard lesson in global economics

Posted

We have dedicated many inches of copy in this space talking about the ongoing pandemic – and for good reason. Thankfully, producing the written word can be accomplished whether at the office or at home, and there is no finite supply on the letters of the alphabet.

But the pandemic has caused many of us to come to grips with an often-overlooked fact of our world – that many products we rely on are indeed in finite supply, and once the normal supply chain has been interrupted by something as far-reaching as a global health crisis, it causes widespread and comprehensive effects to our everyday lives.

Everyone remembers the Great Toilet Paper Scare of April, where an illogical fear of running out of bathroom tissue completely obliterated the existing supply and forced paper manufacturers to totally shift their operations to produce more than ever before. It was harder to find in some places in the first weeks of the lockdowns than hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes – and what that says about our culture and populace, we’ll leave to the comedians and the cynical folk among us.

Today, there’s no shortage of toilet paper as the supply chain has been able to recover from that initial shock. In fact, there’s actually too much now – as the bloated demand has not been sustained in the months since and stores now sit on a large bulk of excessive product. Paper towels, on the other hand, have become the hot commodity that can be difficult to grab if you go to a store at the wrong time.

Those looking to get some home projects done as the weather gets cooler in preparation for winter will be in for a nasty surprise – as many more people did just that over the summer as they found themselves trapped at home for extended periods of time. As a result of the increased demand, lumber has become increasingly difficult to find and prices have significantly increased.

The same can be said for all consumer electronics, from PC components to Chromebooks for remote learning. The technology that comprises a simple laptop includes pieces sourced from all over the world. Each place may have its own complications – whether related to politics, natural resource scarcity or supply chain issues caused by the pandemic – that results in greater scarcity of the final product. Combine these complications with an unprecedented demand for these electronics, and you’ll be hard pressed to find the item you want in stock for the advertised MSRP. Of course, this hasn’t stopped enterprising scammers and scalpers from eating up large quantities of stock with the hopes of reselling for a higher price and a tidy profit for themselves.

The worldwide scarcity of the products that are most important during this unprecedented crisis – we didn’t even mention food, cleaning supplies or air sanitation products – emphasizes just how delicately our comfortable world balances on the precipice of disaster and can be disrupted at any time. This moment in time should illustrate clearly how “globalism” isn’t merely some political buzzword meant to drum up fear and distrust of others – it’s an acceptance of reality that we live in a global society dependent on one another for survival.

The next time you purchase a product, try to find out where each of the components come from. Learn about how that country produces that component. Chances are there’s a lot more involved in the process than you ever imagined. Modern society wasn’t built by any one nation, and it will take a lot of teamwork to get that society back on the right track again.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment