Empty shelvesBriefly, I want to think Sub­ur­ban for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to post on his blog.


I’ve been think­ing about “short­ages”. What it real­ly means to have a “short­age”. As I walk down the isles of my local super­mar­kets I still see full shelves of a wide vari­ety of fresh good qual­i­ty foods. And thank­ful­ly still some rel­a­tive­ly good deals. Yet it has got me think­ing.

The com­mon knee-jerk image is that a short­age means a lack of some­thing. There’s some­thing you want (some­thing you need) that used to be plen­ti­ful but now is scarce.

That cer­tain­ly is a form of “short­age”.

But not the only one.

A sec­ond form that a short­age might take is sim­ply a great­ly reduced lack of choic­es and options. You’re use to see­ing 20 dif­fer­ent kinds of bread in the super­mar­ket, now you only see 5. Even if those 5 are still fair­ly plen­ti­ful, it’s only 5 to choose from instead of 20. Even if you didn’t want all the vari­eties any­way they were always an option. Now you have much less of a choice.

Third, a short­age might also man­i­fest as being very low qual­i­ty of the avail­able choic­es. This usu­al­ly goes hand-in-hand with the sec­ond form described above. You may have a selec­tion of veg­gies at the gro­cery but those that are there are in bad shape. Maybe wilt­ed, maybe banged up or bro­ken up, etc.

And final­ly, a “short­age” may not be a lack of items or a qual­i­ty issue but a real cost and afford­abil­i­ty issue. There may be decent food in the store but the cost for all but a few items is pro­hib­i­tive­ly high! In that sce­nario the qual­i­ty is irrel­e­vant if you tru­ly do not have the funds for it.

Anoth­er exam­ple: Gaso­line. As of writ­ing this gas has blown through $4/gal in my area and steadi­ly on the rise. I, like mil­lions of oth­er Amer­i­cans, have already cut waaaaaaay back on my dri­ving and will con­tin­ue to do so. The gas is there. The pumps are open. But I can’t afford a full tank and oth­er neces­si­ties of life. From my per­spec­tive gas is in a short­age because I can­not afford all I need for dai­ly life in addi­tion to the oth­er require­ments of dai­ly life.

I point out these pos­si­bil­i­ties not to split hairs but help make you aware that we can (and may already be) in a short­age sce­nario with­out every hear­ing any “offi­cial” dec­la­ra­tion of it.

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