Last February, before Covid hit in force, I predicted in Wired magazine that this pandemic would introduce us to the problem of shortages. And now, almost every week I get emails from readers complaining about not being able to buy things they need. Politicians I know are hearing about it on the campaign trail.
If you talk to local economic development officials, they will note that both shortages of goods and labor are the top concern of most businesses at this point. Reddit has a subreddit dedicated to shortages. The most recent Federal Reserve Beige Book mentions “shortage” 80 times. Even CNN is covering the problem, noting that shipping boxes have doubled in price and the cost of moving goods from East Asian to the U.S. or Europe has gone up five-fold.
The problem is everywhere.
There are shortages in everything from ocean shipping containers to chlorine tablets to railroad capacity to black pipe (the piping that houses wires inside buildings) to spicy chicken breasts to specialized plastic bags necessary for making vaccines. Moreover, prices for all sorts of items, from housing to food, are changing in weird ways. Beef, for instance, is at near record highs for consumers, but cattle ranchers are getting paid much less than they used to for their cows. Read more…