Sometimes I have the opportunity to chat with people who escaped from a socialist/communist country, and I love to learn from them. One woman recently described waiting in lines as a child. “There was only one store in our town,” she explained. “If I was walking home from school and I saw a line outside the store, I would go stand in it. If you saw a line, it meant there was something being delivered to the store. I would send my brother home to get our mother, and she would bring money to pay for whatever item had been delivered.” Sounds awesome. No wonder so many Americans think socialism is a great idea!
The U.S. has reached the wait-in-line phase of our journey through the wonders of socialism. The shortages at this point are mostly still tolerable—certain foods, occasional power outages where you’d expect, and even the commie cliché, toilet paper. Other items are still widely available but they’re more expensive—fuel and wine come to mind—a reflection of the scarcity of the supplies and systems on which their manufacturers rely.
When the first COVID-19 shutdowns occurred in early 2019, people began to panic-buy and hoard certain things. Among these was toilet paper, so we can attribute most of that particular shortage to a single overreaction. But last month, Costco announced it was once again limiting customers’ toilet paper purchases to head off another shortage. Of course, being limited in what you can buy is a shortage, but technicalities aside, we see that the dreaded toilet paper shortage is becoming a permanent fixture of American life. Pathetic.
Capitalism works because people are incentivized to make it work. Modern capitalism’s massive, intricately connected systems are a marvel of efficiency and prosperity—when they are allowed to run freely and efficiently, tended by the people who built and understand them. Tinkering with these systems is what causes the problems, but socialist know-it-alls simply can’t keep their hands to themselves.
A prominent feature of socialism is central planning. Unqualified do-gooders twist this knob and spin that dial without a clue about the unintended consequences of what they’re doing. When eggheads are empowered to regulate an intricately interconnected system, they set off a deluge of butterfly effect supply chain snafus.
Shut down businesses to “protect” people from a virus? Voilá! You shifted the way the entire world shops and what they buy.
Pay the laid-off workers to stay home, and fire the ones who are still working? Bam! You just created a labor shortage.
Cancel that pipeline? Pow! You engineered a fuel shortage (which affects everything else).
Today’s shortages are still quaint and amusing. People will joke about wiping their butts with novel items and say maybe it’s a good thing to focus more on the meaning of Christmas and less on the material aspects.
Tomorrow’s shortages may be grimmer.
“Are you ready for the [something in Spanish]?” another socialism escapee asked me the other day.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“The great hunger,” he replied.
I asked him how he knew that was coming, and he said he had seen the same process unfurl decades earlier in his homeland.
I pray it doesn’t get to that point, but the warning signs are visible. COVID shutdowns of slaughterhouses led to tragic mass slaughters on overcrowded farms, wasted food (and countless animals’ lives), and gaps in the deliverables. Yet activists both outside and inside our legislature are pushing for greater central planning control of the farmers who raise our stock. And of course, all the other supply chain issues will still be there to confound deliveries of what meat is still available—to those who can still afford it.
So go ahead and hoard toilet paper when you get the opportunity, but don’t be afraid to throw a couple of canned goods in your cart while you’re at it.
And, oh yeah: FJB!