Image from Pixabay.
The world has focused on outsourcing and globalisation for a long while now. We were so enamoured by the significant cost-savings that we shipped, wholesale, our manufacturing and services offshore. To China. To India.
The price we pay is the loss of our national resilience. When a country overwhelmingly relies on other nations for manufactured goods, food, and key services, that country is less resilient. And the current pandemic has clearly shone a light on the dangers of how we have been doing capitalism.
Business sees short-term gains at the cost of long-term resilience (or even long-term profits) as acceptable. Why does everything have to be exploited to the nth degree? Why can’t we retain some manufacturing on-shore, even when it is not as profitable as the offshore ones? Why should everything be just-in-time and on-demand?
We can argue that this is the nature of business, as it is practiced right now. No business will voluntarily make less money to look out for the longer-term wellbeing of the country. “That’s the government’s job!” they cry. But governments, who are supposed to look after their citizenry, were also enthusiastically playing at being businesses.
They sell off critical infrastructure like power, water, transport, healthcare to private industry. Because somehow the profit motive will improve the efficiency of these services. More often than not, this leads to more vulnerable members of society being disadvantaged. They adopt business-oriented strategies, such as paring critical services to the bone for the sake of just-in-time efficiency. Just-in-time-optimised hospital bed numbers don’t work when a pandemic hits.
Minimising the stockpiling of fuel oil is another example. We cut things down to the bone during good times to maximise profits and savings, as if the bad times will never come.
Why is government even run like a business? Is it supposed to somehow fire unproductive citizens? Why do we somehow equate profitable business practice (ie maximise profit, minimise cost, at any cost) with good government? Is there not a case for valuing the citizenry’s wellbeing right here right now more, over the single-minded striving for a surplus?
It almost seems like everyone is out to maximise profits for themselves, and no one is actually looking ahead for the nation’s collective wellbeing, and planning for disasters that we know will come.
This is a good time to rethink the role of government in our lives, and to tweak how we practice business. It is time to add national resilience back into political decision making. Governments must prioritise their role to look after the wellbeing of the people and the nation.
If you are a business owner, or has influence over the strategy of your organisation, what can you do beyond the bounds of your spreadsheets to add to the national resilience?