It was a very strange moment when this week the spokesperson for the president defended inflation as a high-class problem. She explained that higher prices are merely a sign that economic activity is picking up. People are buying things and that’s good. Of course that pushes up prices, she said. Just deal with it.
At this point, the White House will say anything. Truth, facts, morality – these things matter less and less in current-day America. Your misery is an illusion. Losing your job because you don’t want the jab? Hey, that is the price you pay for noncompliance. Expect no sympathy from anyone in charge.
The Great Rationing
It must have been this flippant dismissal that caused me to go over the top. I wrote that hyperinflation could lead not only to implicit price controls, but also to rationing. Eventually, we could see the government issuing food tickets into bank accounts that allow us only a certain amount of food for the week. One chicken. One pound of hamburger heat. Five rolls of toilet paper.
I wrote that with a worry that I might be going too far here with speculation. This is America, after all, and we don’t do things this way. And yet in the old America we didn’t close churches for Easter, or skip Christmas for fear of a virus. And so on. Yet we know now that in fact we do these things, and easily.
Fear makes anything possible.
And so right on cue — things are moving very fast these days — The Washington Post has published an article by one of its regular contributors (Micheline Maynard) with one message:
GET USED TO IT!
She says that we have come to expect too much for the economy. Ever since 1911, she says, we’ve been obsessed with getting stuff and getting it fast. That’s dumb, she says. Deprivation is not only the new normal; it’s the way things should be.
“Across the country, Americans’ expectations of speedy service and easy access to consumer products have been crushed like a Styrofoam container in a trash compactor,” she writes.
“Time for some new, more realistic expectations.”
For example, she writes of the candy shortage. The milk shortage. The everything shortage. Then she concludes: “Rather than living constantly on the verge of throwing a fit, and risking taking it out on overwhelmed servers, struggling shop owners or late-arriving delivery people, we’d do ourselves a favor by consciously lowering expectations.”
How bad can it get? She saves the best for the very end:
“American consumers might have been spoiled, but generations of them have also dealt with shortages of some kind — gasoline in the 1970s, food rationing in the 1940s, housing in the 1920s, when cities such as Detroit were booming. Now it’s our turn to make adjustments.”
You might read that again. She is defending gas lines. More astonishingly, she is going on about the glorious suffering of wartime, when food was rationed with rationing tickets! You cannot make this stuff up.
What’s worse, that The Washington Post published it reveals something about what they imagine could be our future. And by future I don’t mean distant future. I mean next year.
No One Is Safe
You will notice the growing tribalization of everything and everyone in the last 20 months. People are retreating to what is safe and known, their own kind. Their neighborhood. Their closest friends. Their families. Even those are strained, but that is all we have. The old world of integration and heterogeneity is shattered, commercial culture is dead in large parts of the country and fear and depression are taking over as the dominant emotions.
I write that and my friends in Texas, Florida and South Dakota say: “I have no idea what you are talking about. Life around here is normal. Concerts are packed. Restaurants are busy. No one is wearing masks. We are so over this!”
I’m happy for them. Truly. But there’s a problem. Many problems. We all share the same monetary unit. Supply chains are connected all over the country, and the world. Every state relies on goods from every other state. We are long past autarky. We can feel like we are safe, but we are not.
Hyperinflation will affect everyone without exception. If North Carolina can’t get milk and chicken, neither can Florida and New Mexico. The deprivation will be shared. A good example is the car shortage. Texas was not spared simply because the state has a relatively halfway decent governor who finally got wise, too late, but he finally got there. Still the car lots are empty.
It’s the same with many things. We all use the same dollar. Its destruction will hit South Dakota the same as it hits California. There will be no safe space.
Many people moved to get away from despotism during this last year. They thought they were safe. They are not. Yes, life for now is better in Miami than Chicago but when the crisis hits, it will not spare red states with reasonable governors just because the people there have not been part of the insanity for a long time. They will still pay the price.
The Great Deprivation
In the past when things went wrong, at least our leaders admitted that things were not going so well. They tried to fix the problem. It’s not clear that our current leadership in Washington even believes it is a problem. The response toward existing inflation is telling. They think it’s all fine.
Gas lines? Fine: Just switch to electric. No heating oil or it is unaffordable? That’s all the better for solving climate change.
No bags in the stores? Just bring your own. No meat? Eat veggie burgers. And so on.
These people are part of a cult. They do not oppose poverty. They think it’s about time we experienced it. Poverty is good for us. Deprivation is plenty. Inflation is prosperity. Empty shelves are a reset to the way things should be.
These are people for whom socialism was not a failure but a triumph in which people learned to become a new form of community through suffering. In fact, they are pro-suffering. It’s a new form of leftist ideology that has gained steam for decades. Now they are in charge. They get perverse pleasure out of the whole scene.
It doesn’t matter how bad it gets. Our leaders will never admit failure. They will look at the disaster they are creating and call it success. This is what is truly chilling about the unfolding crisis: They do not believe it is a crisis. They think this is a reset to the way things should work.