And while some heroic businesses have shifted production to help fill this gap and produce masks, hand sanitizer and other goods, the nation is still behind.
One reason is that as manufacturers fled to China, our nation’s economy transformed into one dominated by service industries, which survive on person-to-person transactions like the ones now restricted. And unlike industrial economies, service-based economies lack the flexibility that comes with producing physical goods that can either be sold later or repurposed to meet a sudden shortage. This makes us especially vulnerable to this kind of shock.
A commensurate shift in corporate behavior away from investment in workers, equipment and facilities, and toward churning out short-term financial gains to shareholders has only further sapped our resiliency. Why didn’t we have enough N95 masks or ventilators on hand for a pandemic? Because buffer stocks don’t maximize financial return, and there was no shareholder reward for protecting against risk. Even in government, we became infatuated with the “just in time” acquisition model, as opposed to “just in case” contingency acquisitions.
Today, we see the consequences of this short-term, hyperindividualistic ethos.