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The cure could be worse than the disease.

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President Trump has said several times that “the cure could be worse than the disease” and  we need to get the country back in operation as soon as it is safe to do so. I don’t know if people fully understand what he means. 

Societal collapse has happened before.

Civilizations have collapsed throughout our history. If you visit the Colosseum in Rome, the guide will probably tell you that after the fall of Rome, a few thousand people took it over and fortified it in order to eke out a somewhat safer existence. There have been more recent examples such as Zimbabwe, Argentina, Venezuela, and the Wiemar Republic.  All of those suffered some form of societal collapse  

When civilizations collapse - The Colosseum
When civilizations collapse – The Colosseum

A quick note about the Colosseum, Most of the visible damage was from marble being stripped for other buildings in Rome not as a result of it being used as a refuge after the collapse.

One could argue that civilization is a very thin veneer over underlying barbarism. Look at examples such as the Rodney King Riots and other riots in recent history. 

Every day that we remain shut down brings us closer to a breakdown.

Do I think we will see a breakdown? As of March 25, 2020, I don’t believe we will get to that point. But things could change quickly

Some of the current trends are a little disturbing. Communities are releasing prisoners, standing down their police and trying to restrict guns.

Why is it important to get back to work?

So, why is it important to get the country back to work and also to help large businesses.?  All of society is interwoven.  When one sector suffers or is eliminated it will affect other sectors

An example, Grumman Aerospace.

The supply chain and a complete shutdown of the economy
Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Let’s look at a multi billion dollar company, Grumman Aerospace. When I was in my 20’s I worked on the F-14 Tomcat program for the US Navy. We provided logistical support for the aircraft. Or, put more simply, we bought the stuff they needed to keep the planes flying. 

Grumman didn’t make every nut, bolt, screw, wire and label, they used sub vendors. Many of the sub vendors had other sub vendors. The supply chain went from the aircraft itself down to the tiniest nut and bolt. Grumman also had to purchase desks, buildings, computers, pens, paper, trash removal, cafeteria food and countless other items. 

I think the cost of a plane was something like 20 million dollars. 

On the other end of the scale was my Aunt Sophie. She worked for a small shop that provided screws that were used in applications such as Military aircraft. 

If Grumman were to collapse due to six months of a shutdown, then eventually, Aunt Sophie would have been jobless. 

Going in the other direction, Aunt Sophie worked for a small business. The would not have the cash flow to stay open if the orders from companies such as Grumman disappeared. Vendors had to meet stringent requirements. Something as simple as not being able to get screws that meet the specifications could bring the entire production and support of the aircraft to a halt. 

Now, if someone like Aunt Sophie lost her job, she can no longer afford to pay her rent. Even with unemployment, the strain on the system will be too much. 

People can get ugly under stress.

For the most part, people are not going off the rails. But, look at things like fights over toilet paper and bottled water when this started. If we don’t get the economy moving, the ugliness you see will be a lot worse.

If a small or large company goes out of business, then additional people are out of work. In a collapsing economy, there are simply no jobs available.

If the supply chain collapses and the food shelves empty, that causes people to become more agitated. The photo below is from March 2020. The supply chain is under stress from people hoarding and panic buying. Keep in mind that we are not close to a collapse YET and the shelves are bare.

Empty Shelves at the food store.
Empty shelves and it’s only the beginning

In the runup to Y2K, many people were worried that a domino effect would cause TEOTWAWKI or The end of the world as we know it. People started taking a close look at supply chains and what happened during other breakdowns. We were fortunate in that case that it was a huge nothingburger.

Risk

Yes, there is a risk to opening the economy. The President and his advisers must take a lot of factors into account. If people go back to work, for example an office supporting a large car dealership, there is a possibility that infection could spread. However, by re-arranging the offices and taking precautions, the risk can be minimized.

Consider what is happening now with irresponsible morons gathering for spring break. Tens of thousands of college age and high school students sharing vape pipes, bottles and their bodies will surely spread the virus.

The seasonal flu has killed over 10,000 people so far this year. Yes, Covid-19 has a potential to kill a lot of people but so far, it hasn’t come close to the flu deaths. Did we shut the economy down for HIV, SARS, MRSA, Swine flu or other diseases? The CDC estimates 12000-60000 deaths per year from the flu.

One can argue the Spanish Flu experience of the Philadelphia Parade causing a lot more infection and death than what was found in cities who cancelled their gatherings. But, we aren’t talking about a parade where people are uninformed. We are talking about people going to their cubicles and practicing social distancing.

Worst Case Scenario

We will never get to a 100 percent safe world and we aren’t close to the level of flu deaths yet. A worse case scenario would be a collapse of businesses throughout the economy both large and small. Once a company such as an aerospace manufacturer shutters their doors, they may never come back. The expertise is lost, the tools are scrapped or rust away and the supporting supply chain collapses. 

When people are hungry, they often turn ugly. If the police can’t be paid they either walk off the job or find other ways to make a living (Thing good and hard about that one). 

Within a generation, we could be living like the last of the Romans huddled in the remains of a once proud building. 

Summary

All of society is interwoven. Small and large businesses are dependent on each other. People are dependent on businesses to provide a robust economy.

Societies have fallen for a number of reasons. One thing that is deadly is when a government simply prints money. That causes hyperinflation. Look up the Wiemar Republic and you can see that it took wheelbarrows of money to buy a loaf of bread… IF you could find a loaf.

Yes, there is a risk of spreading the infection. BUT, if we shut down for too long, there is a risk of complete collapse (“The cure could be worse than the disease”)

Pray that our leaders take the best path

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