31. Is PPE and medical supplies protectionism a good idea?

In the last few weeks, amidst difficulties to procure PPE and ventilators, amongst others, experienced by all countries, a school of thought has started to gain traction. We got it wrong with globalisation and need to bring back to each country the manufacturing of strategic or critical goods. This is a natural kneejerk reaction to current difficulties, but may not be very smart. Globalisation is the global implementation of division of labour, by which we all become richer by each community manufacturing goods they have the capability and skills to manufacture, gaining from scale and concentration of labour and with supply chain contributing to GDP. Should we give that up to avoid this situation again? What is the sustainability of many companies in many countries making goods we may not need for many years? What we need may be rather a more geographical sparse supply chain for these goods and a better legal framework for fair supply in times of crisis. May be too civilised for us yet?

Length: 1,001 characters 


Melkisecebe said…
I agree with you, I dont know what is the best solution and I think it needs cautious reflection. What may work for a crisis may not work for normal circumstances. But above all, in my ignorance, I believe centralized and decentralized systems of production of supplies have caveats and strengths. What this situation should teach us is that we need flexible systems that are designed with the aim to provide what is needed in a sustainable and fairly distributed way. This is what must be essential in the design of our production structure. Our system will work if it is made with common good in mind, instead of greed.
b8c said…
I struggle with globalisation (and capitalism) sometimes. Although the model works well for some goods (like disposable facemasks) I'm not sure that outsourcing manufacturing, skilled or unskilled, in the quest for lowest price/maximum profit really is a good thing. As consumers we all strive for the highest quality goods at the lowest price - but are we really considering the long term economic (and environmental) impact of this? I think the US is really starting to feel the bite of having outsourced much of its manufacturing to China - and although I disagree with 99% of what the current administration is doing - bringing in punitive tariffs could/should begin to turn things around? Having said that I read somewhere that the vast majority of US jobs in manufacturing were lost to automation and not to outsourcing overseas ...
PS Nice to see you hit your 1001 characters on the nose with that one - did you have to re-edit?
SantiDominguezV said…
I will combine replies to both in this reply. I think the environmental impact of these global supply chains is overstated, and, in fact, it is probably lower than the alternative. Imagine a specialised World in which facemasks, for example, are all made in China with materials from Turkey and India. This is a lot of transport. But now imagine the alternative, with a number of factories for facemasks in each country, with materials from Turkey and India (cotton does not grow anywhere). The transport is significantly higher, as it cannot be optimised/centralised as it is in the first case (where all supply from Turkey to China is centralised and moved one time, and then facemasks are sent to a few distribution centres in each continent and distributed from there). The big advantage is that there are huge savings in scale and specialised workforce and equipment, which make us all richer. Unfortunately, that additional resource that we enjoy, we use to consume well above our need, instead of to investing in green initiatives, helping the less fortunate and improving ourselves. The problem for me does not lie in the greater wealth globalisation generates, but in the poor choices we make with that disposable income, and in poor distribution. Been richer and more efficient is good. But the gains are wasted when we are conceited, egocentric and selfish
SantiDominguezV said…
As for the other question, editing is nearly always needed to shorten.I have observed that first draft comes in at around 1,040-1,050. I do not edit to get 1,001, I just edit to get under 1,001. That sometimes takes me to 993, this time to 1,001 (somewhat more satisfying). Although sometimes I would like more characters, I still think 1,001 is a pretty good length to say something meaningful without boring your audience... (or readership, rather)

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