Profit is a key component to the free market equation, so how in the world did we go wrong in the US? Before the governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we assumed our economy was humming along, witnessing the longest economic expansion on record with 128 consecutive months of growth (June 2009-February 2020) and the national unemployment rate stood at 3.5%. People had jobs, inflation was growing at a sustainable rate, and we could all bask in the notion that the US was still an economic powerhouse. China was, and still is, a threat, making no bones about proclaiming its intention of attaining economic and cultural hegemony, but we still had something to say about it…or so we thought.
Much then can be learned from historians’ theses on the fall of the Roman Empire; it is a place to begin the comparison of general trajectories between ancient Rome and the US. I do not believe that history is self-repeating, but, rather, an opportunity to discuss similarities that can assist us in crafting policy that may help us in avoiding the same fate as the once great Romans. To wit, many historians cite disease, internal political unrest, economic failures and bureaucratic malfeasance as reasons behind the slow slog towards political and strategic insignificance for the once great, powerful Rome. If I replaced “the US” with “Rome” in that last sentence, would the reader have found the placement odd? Strictly my point-we are witnessing a shift in our societal and economic norms at a velocity not seen in recent history.
We are currently experiencing a secular “Great Awakening” of sorts, understanding the fragility of our economic system. COVID-19 and our governmental response initiated the “canary in the coal mine”, alerting us that our current economic situation was more fragile than previously thought. We can choose to use the experiences of a faulty domestic goods supply, fully realized through years of divestment in US manufacturing and innovation, understanding that our future national security and economic dominance remain in the balance without action. It’s patently obvious to any sentient human in the US that our “land of plenty” motto is broken. Just walk into a grocery store, try to buy a car, or order furniture and you will face long delivery times, sticker shock and empty shelves. Sometimes it takes a severe blow to fully showcase the fragile nature of a process or way of life
What will this reset look like, and how can we exist in a true free market (profit above all else) without exposing our domestic materialistic culture to the same dangers we have experienced since March of 2020? I think this is a multi-pronged issue that needs pragmatic responses from the government, private business and consumers. Merely lobbing government cash at a private market problem has never been a permanent, sustainable solution and can only increase taxpayer burdens. We need to find a better existence between true profit/free market principles and sustainable domestic growth. Shareholders, while important, will not physically build cars, truck goods across the country and provide necessary private services. I assume that it will take a private sector philosophical overhaul to embrace goods and services created on our shores. This is a possibility without evolving into a socialist market/command economy, but the road ahead will require complex discussions and decisions from our business leaders, first and foremost, with the support of the US government.
As mentioned in a previous blog from February 2020, we also need to establish a new supply web that offers protection and stimulates domestic growth. Not a “told you so” moment, but we read the tea leaves back then and understood that our economic system had become too reliant on outside influences (suppliers, innovators, investors). Our government needs to provide support for burgeoning industries and recalibrate how precious tax dollars are spent—social safety net programs will need to heel in favor of industrial investment, innovation and security based manufacturing. If we as a government (a true representative republic) choose to spend the vast amount of tax resources on agendas that will not increase our economic strength and domestic security, we will soon succumb to the same fate as the Romans and many empires before and since: a mere historical footnote in a digital textbook, whereby we are picked apart by “experts” that easily perform a post-mortem on our once great nation. Our history has not yet been written, and we are not fated for a steep decline, but the outline is taking shape.