Well, I'm terrified

by Jon Sullivan - 2020-03-31 - Opinion

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We keep assuming we'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel keeps getting longer.

By 2020 many people have relied on Amazon.com their entire lives. I remember it's start up in the 90s, bragging about the new model for how people would shop. Pundits made a career of cataloging why it wouldn't work. It's ubiquitous now.

But Amazon built everything they do on a "just in time" supply chain. Warehouses have only what will be ordered soon. Factories only make new stuff after something in the warehouse is bought. Raw materials are only shipped after factories use what they have. Zero slack, by design. And with the virus, now every single point in the supply chain is a bottleneck. Now Amazon can't sell you things like toilet paper or rice or.... well.... anything you really need.

Even worse, at every step, businesses are closing for social distancing, and people are either dying or bed ridden, breaking the chain further.

With the chain broken, Amazon is broken, and with it a big chunk of civilization. And of course not just Amazon, all supply and demand models are affected. Our models are based on obvious assumptions. Assumptions like going to an office won't be illegal/deadly. Assumptions like butt wipe won't be more valuable than lobster. By the time we get a new model in place, the main virus threat will be over. Then we'll need to try and rebuild the thing we just replaced. Rehire all the people we just laid off. The whole chain.

And to pile on, the US has somehow gone decades accepting that 60% of the population can live paycheck to paycheck. Now a lot of those paychecks have dried up. I'm wondering what will change to make jobs, labor, etc less fragile for that 60%. Unemployment insurance only happened in the 1930s to stop communists (yes, real communists) from gaining support after the great depression. Will we see more support for social democratic policies now? Will people start to wonder why if social democrat policies are so evil, why do we use them so often and so quickly to bail out capitalism?

We thought we were building a stronger future. But we only made it more fragile.

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