business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, we had an email from an MNB reader who took issue with my approach to the pandemic, arguing that "fear-mongering is the new news," and that the pandemic "should not grind our lives to a halt ! This is not our first rodeo... We should be able to function and survive without ruining our jobs, relationships, travel & recreation, and everything else that makes life worthwhile. Politicians who believe that shutdowns are necessary and try and take away our freedoms need to be voted out of office. They obviously have a hidden agenda. We need to be able to live our lives and not have to hide in a closet!"

I disagreed … and said that shutdowns are only necessary when people don't act like mature adults and wear masks, wash their hands and practice appropriate physical distancing.  It also means making sacrifices sometimes - I cited the case of my son, who lives in Chicago (where cases are spiking) and decided not to come home for Thanksgiving because he did not want to risk bring home the virus.

I wrote:

Mask mandates are not necessary if people wear them on their own, if people have the common decency - and yes, patriotism - to wear masks as a way of protecting other people.  You know, their families and friends and co-workers and neighbors and even people they don't know but who qualify as their fellow human beings.  Mask mandates are only made necessary when people are so selfish that they don't do the right thing on their own.

I concluded:

Our lives are not "ground to a halt" by this.  Nobody is hiding in a closet.  And we're not bowing to some "hidden agenda," or capitulating to "fear-mongering." We're all just trying to do the right thing for each other and for our community, recognizing that some quarter of a million people have died from this damned thing, and we don't want to add to the numbers.

That's a quarter-million people who have died.  I get the occasional email from people suggesting that I am giving the pandemic too much attention, too much space.  To which I reply, how many people have to die to warrant the attention I am giving it?  How many businesses and livelihoods have to be affected?

This MNB reader responded with an email:

Thank you for confirming our views. You are living in hiding, and you might think you are doing the right thing. I guess when someone has a different opinion that doesn’t agree with yours ... then they are selfish and unAmerican? 

Our kids are coming home for the Holidays .. these years are more important to us as we get order since there may be fewer opportunities. Temps will be talked and masks will be worn... common sense.... but well worth the effort .

I hope you find their visit worth the effort, and that, in the end, you don't find that as a result there are fewer opportunities and fewer years because of your behavior.

I am heartened by the fact that I am not the only member of the MNB community who feels this way.

One MNB reader wrote:

I am simply appalled at the disregard for human life that has come to the surface in the last 8 ½ months – having known family friends who have passed away from the disease.  Folks seem to be saying  as people are going to die anyway, why not this?  Would they feel the same way if the person was killed by a bullet from a known or unknown assailant, an airplane slamming into a building, and on and on – methinks not.

So a heart felt thank you for keeping us up to date on the news – I know it must look pretty grim many days.

Grim is the right word.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Those who scream about “Individual Liberty” seem to have forgotten the second half of what makes a functioning society: “Civic Responsibility.”  

Fair point.

And from another reader:

KC, regarding your response on the Coronavirus and masks etc, amen and thank you.

Regarding another story, about the introduction of gluten-free Oreos, an MNB reader wrote:

So Nabisco comes out with Gluten Free Oreos, I guess 10 plus years late is better than never.

Oh, come on.  They've been busy wearing us out with all their new flavors, introduced with such frequency that they became so much clutter.  At least,  IMNSHO.

We took note yesterday of a Financial Times piece that reported:

"Retailers and suppliers in the US are facing a blizzard of lawsuits and enforcement actions over accusations of profiteering as industry data show average prices of a range of household goods have risen sharply during the pandemic. Authorities across the country have brought hundreds of actions over alleged breaches of 'price gouging' rules on products including face masks, disinfectant and toilet paper."

I commented:

The community standards for what comprises gouging may be different, but I would hope that the states are consumer-oriented enough to not just prosecute those companies that are found to have violated the law, but also make their identities very, very public.  Consumers who believe that retailers advocate for their best interests need toi be disabused of that notion when it is demonstrably untrue.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

There is no need for sanctimony in your view on pricing.  Please review your Econ 101.  If supply and demand are not in balance, price adjusts until it is balanced.  If the price can’t adjust, there will be scarcity.   If the price on liquid hand soap can’t adjust when there is more demand than supply than there will not be enough liquid hand soap for everyone who wants it.  If you let the price adjust, some people will be willing to pay more, but others may switch to bar soap which is readily available and now cheaper.   The customer can choose.

Then, the increased price on liquid hand soap gives incentive to other players to enter the market, which will increase supply.

Do you remember gas lines in the 1970’s?   There was scarcity because the government didn’t allow prices to go up.  There hasn’t been scarcity since then because the government isn’t intervening in the market anymore.   Let markets work.

Was I being sanctimonious?  Wasn't my intention, but I'll accept the description.

Your assessment sounds good, except for the fact that price gouging - which is what the story was about - is illegal in most states.  And probably with good reason.

And, regarding Amazon's new pharmacy efforts, MNB reader Mike Bach wrote:

Can you say “Game Changer?” 

One can wait in line two days at a typical CVS or Walgreen’s just to pay for / receive a prescription order.

I hope you enjoyed our Innovation Conversation on the subject this morning.  Tom Furphy and I would agree with your assessment.