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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