“One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone Forever” Another problem with efficiency

People are finding many new ways to be more efficient—recycling, crickets for food, and seaweed for food for example. I’ve written many times how efficiency can be a good tactic within the strategy of reducing consumption, but doesn’t stand on its own.

The New York Times headline, One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone Forever illustrates what happens when we value efficiency so highly in the market. The opposite of efficiency doesn’t have to be inefficient. It can be resilience. The article begins

Small-business owners said they have exhausted federal and local assistance and see no end in sight after months of sharp revenue drops. Now, many are closing their shops and restaurants for good.

A pandemic is only one force that can disrupt markets. Preparing for many disruptions could prepare us for others, such as this one. We’d allow more redundancies so we’d grow less, but we’d be more resilient to situations like now.

Our markets don’t have to suffer so much so fast. We have driven our markets to more and more efficiency, making them less resilient, more fragile and brittle. Sadly, small businesses and their employees pay the price.

Growth, externalizing costs, efficiency, comfort, and convenience sound seductive and easy choices. They had their places, but after pushing on them so long and seeing their results, it’s time for enjoying what you have, taking responsibility for how your behavior affects others, resilience, meaning, and purpose.

As Norman Borlaug said in accepting his Nobel Peace Prize,

The green revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only.

Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the “Population Monster”. . . Since man is potentially a rational being, however, I am confident that within the next two decades he will recognize the self-destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth…

He was talking about efficiency and growth versus resilience and stability. Just because our ancestors followed some values doesn’t mean we have to.

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