Many Americans have seen and shared photos and video showing container-laden ships stuck off the coast of California. They have expressed their anger over the coddling federal “maternity/paternity leave” mandates that for years have smothered private business decisions, and they notice how those “leave” mandates now have seen “Transportation Secretary” Pete Buttigieg take three months off from his taxpayer-funded job because he’s a “new parent.”
But, while critics correctly cite Buttigieg and Biden, and often express an understanding of the supply chain problems caused by a break in one link, conservatives err when focusing on the unlikeable Buttigieg and not on the larger political-economic system that has placed the entire supply infrastructure under the sway of one bureaucrat in the first place.
This should be stressed. Our problem arises not from the planner, but from the central-planner mindset: the very idea that a complex economy can be directed by a central government.
By focusing on the angering behavior of one bureaucrat, conservatives run the risk of behaving like old Soviets, targeting one easily-demonized “Commissar” while accepting the fallacious idea of “The Commission”: collectivist command-and-control over the complex workings of what should be a free market economy directed by FREE people.
One need not buy into the blather of the Washington Post, which just published a piece telling us Troglodytes:
Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.
That, too buys into the old Soviet mindset.
Instead, one can look at real, actual hurdles blocking the free-market price system, and damming-up the proper flow of supply and demand.
And those hurdles are political in origin, not natural at all.
Some stem from an overall lack of ready truckers, which has been inspired by announced federal COVID19 jab mandates as well as older federal “time on the road” restrictions, monitor mandates, and even bans on refurbished engines that all have turned potential workers away or driven seasoned vets out of it entirely.
In California, they have been amplified, and go back to 2002, through 2014, and into 2020, as the leftist state government called for, and eventually “was allowed” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EPA “waivers” allowing the Golden State to mandate even “stricter’ emissions standards on everything from off-road vehicles to big-rig trucks.
The trucking issue with California LA ports, ie the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), is that all semi tractors have to be current with new California emissions standards. As a consequence, that mean trucks cannot be older than 3 years if they are to pick up or deliver containers at those ports. This issue wipes out approximately half of the fleet trucks used to move containers in/out of the port. Operating the port 24/7 will not cure the issue, because all it does is pile up more containers that sit idle as they await a limited number of trucks to pick them up. THIS is the central issue.
And Sundance offers more details about the key moment when the dock problems were fated to occur – the moment a group of beleaguered truckers gave up, and the EPA granted the California enviro-thugs their waiver to turn away all those “non-compliant” trucks:
On October 16, 2020, the EPA reached a settlement agreement [DATA HERE] with California Air Resource Board (CARB) to shut down semi-tractor rigs that were non-compliant with new California emission standards…
This is a good piece of investigative reporting, and allows us to turn to that “settlement agreement” to see some of what the Commissars at the EPA wrote:
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced settlements with three interstate trucking companies imposing $417,000 in penalties for violating the California Air Resources Board’s federally enforceable Truck and Bus Regulation, Drayage Truck Regulation and Transport Refrigeration Unit Regulation.
‘As trucks are one of the largest sources of air pollution in California, EPA will continue to ensure these heavy-duty vehicles have the needed pollution-control equipment and operate in compliance with the rules,’ said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. ‘These companies have agreed to bring their trucks into compliance and operate more cleanly in all communities they serve.’
And Sundance observes:
In effect, what this 2020 determination and settlement created was an inability of half the nation’s truckers from picking up anything from the Port of LA or Port of Long Beach. Virtually all private owner operator trucks and half of the fleet trucks that are used for moving containers across the nation were shut out.
This is not a problem solely contingent on Pete Buttigieg. It is a larger, systemic, federal encroachment into every stream of the US economic system.
And it is centuries-old, going back to the assumption that the feds can control ports (their US Constitution allows the feds to impose disastrous import taxes and tariffs, but not to claim the power to control PORTS or “transportation”, for goodness sake). It was not until an erroneous, shocking 1821 Supreme Court ruling called “Gibbons v. Ogden” that the feds began claiming that the Constitution’s “interstate commerce clause” (Article One, Section Eight) granted the central government politicians the power to control ports beyond the aforementioned theft through tariffs and import taxes.
This is all extremely important, because central control-and-command systems have wrought havoc and hardship, shortages and price-spikes, deprivation and starvation, everywhere they have been imposed.
And, in the U.S., while California’s top-down political impositions are forcing shippers to anchor off the coast, Georgia’s relatively freer trucking options are seeing not only positive results, but an amazing shipping shift, away from California, through the Panama Canal, all the way to the East Coast.
On October 17, The Georgia Record reported that the immense ports of Savannah and Charleston have seen massive increases in traffic and in wait times for ships off the coast. But in Georgia, as opposed to the ports in California, the market – while not entirely free -- is freer to respond:
Port of Savannah is definitely seeing an influx in import volume and clearly struggling to overcome the need to ask vessels to endure long wait times. As of this week, two major global leaders in container shipping, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM, have diverted their port of call up to Charleston because their normal Savannah port is the site of some of the worst congestion on the East Coast. They simply cannot afford the offshore cost. The commodities owners would rather trade the direct transportation line to Atlanta for a swift landing of their goods on American soil.
And, as opposed to the California situation, Georgia is seeing higher prices attract a higher supply of truckers and off-loaders to fit demand:
The Port of Savannah is processing, on average, 14,000 trucks through the interchange each day. This is record-breaking, and our truckers must be applauded for rising to meet the higher demands. They make American move!
This is not to don rose-colored glasses and claim everything is fine, even in Georgia. But the difference is stark and educational – and it is essential if ethically-minded people want to understand how the ethics of freedom and market systems are, actually, the same thing. In fact, one might call “economics” by the title “ethinomics” because the ethics of peace and freedom are what the price system requires in order for free people to engage in the process of supply filling demand. That process requires the price system, and the price system is based on free will and individual valuation.
Control-and-command systems, regardless of who runs them, are, by their nature, anti-freedom, and, thus, contrary to ethics and economics.
The lesson in the U.S. supply chain crisis is not to focus on the Commissar, but on the system of compulsion the bureaucracy imposes. Only then can we break away from personality politics and understand how liberty... liberates the economy.