Many people understandably express concern about the worsening economic situation and wonder how bad things will get. I don’t have a crystal ball to consult, but all the economic indicators are trending poorly. The economic situation isn’t really what this blog post is going to be about. I recently started giving people a head’s up what my blog posts are going to be about in the beginning, so they can easily decide to skip reading further or venture on. So, this blog post is going to be about buying into rumors and bad news that fits your personal views on politics, world events, the worsening economic situation. Yes, this is another warning about information and news sources.
Almost daily now there’s more bad news on the economic front, from projected wheat shortages, rice shortages, drought in the US Mid-West, more shipping problems, war and the list goes on and on. We could have hyperinflation and major economic collapses, but let’s look at some Great Depression facts.
Most of us have heard stories of hardship and struggle from old people who grew up during the Great Depression (1929-1933). Loads of novels and movies have been set during that time period too. However, some interesting facts about The Great Depression get lost, because it’s easier to focus on people going hungry, soup kitchens, bared down recipes to struggle by on, and widespread unemployment – all things that happened.
Unemployment in the US rose to 25% during the Great Depression. The US is below 4% unemployment presently, but inflation is rising rapidly.
What’s interesting is that despite the economic crisis, plenty of very successful businesses, like Publix Super Markets and Pendleton Grain Growers started during the Great Depression. The same thing will likely happen during our current economic woes, even if it gets much worse.
With the fertilizer situation, this year many farmers might not plant as much, but I’d expect a big opportunity for organic and plain old manure-based fertilizers to develop quickly. Big agri-business might not adapt rapidly, but plenty of smaller farmers, might see opportunity in this situation. Along with all the hardships and bad things, this current economic crisis will also fuel some new, successful businesses, new opportunities and a lot of innovation as Americans figure out ways to survive and thrive, because that’s what Americans do.
We are still a country with plenty of people who seek opportunity. Millions of people from other countries still flock to America for that very reason. America remains a country with vast material resources. Beyond that, we still remain a country of incalculable human resources and potential. No matter what bad things happen, I believe it’s important to keep this in mind.
With all the economic bad news and worries, a lot of people rush into believing any conspiracy theory that gets passed around online, with no real evidence that events are even connected. For instance, five days ago, the headquarters of Azure Standard, a popular distributor of organic and health food, used and promoted by many YouTube homesteading and prepper channels, burned down. Within hours there were people on YouTube and other social media running wild with a conspiracy theory linking the Azure Standard fire to other food company fires. It was all innuendo about “a lot of fires with food places happening” and rumors run amok.
It seems there are lots of people who want to buy into grand conspiracy theories without any evidence or waiting for an investigation.
That happens a lot online.
If you’re watching a video or TV personality or reading information and it gets you feeling panic or alarm, chances are it’s deliberate, politically-motivated agitation propaganda or clickbait to get people watching or reading or someone reacting out of fear. I’ve read Gavin DeBecker’s, book The Gift of Fear, like millions of other people, and fear or gut instincts can be important to listen to, but when you’re making long-term plans, I still believe it’s wiser to calmly make big spending decisions, plan a budget, and make important financial decisions. In economic crises, being on as stable of personal financial ground as possible improves your chances of faring better than being in a lot of debt and having no money saved.
Along with slowing down on reacting to news, it’s important to slow down about jumping to conclusions about things we see around us too. Ask questions and take your time before getting worked up or rushing to assume the worst.
Ask five eyewitnesses to an event what happened and it’s likely you’ll get five different versions of events. That’s why I’m actively putting the brakes on reacting to alarming news, because many people keep assuming the worst possible economic calamities will befall us. I also am trying not to buy into the “OMG” type social media reactions, where people rush to talk about this “crisis” or that “crisis,” or as in the case of the Azure Standard fire, connect other fires within the food chain as part of some grand conspiracy without a shred of evidence to connect these events or even time for investigators to determine the cause of the Azure Standard fire.
Under-consumption was a problem in the Great Depression, because people couldn’t afford to buy things. Under-consumption also led to massive job losses, as businesses folded.
Mass panic led to bank runs, which forced bank to liquidate loans, which in turn led to bank failures. About 9,000 banks failed between 1930 to 1933.
Mass panic exacerbates and even creates many of the dire events that happen in crises. And mass panic is fueled by rumors, media hysteria and people buying into reacting out of fear. That’s why I keep mentioning it’s important to be calm and try to think through situations, rather than get on a soapbox every day with “the sky is falling” opining.
I don’t have a plan for all the worst-case what-ifs in my life, let alone worrying about what everyone else is going to do, but I do know that getting worked up has never helped anyone make sound decisions, become better prepared, or handle any crisis better. I’ve dealt with lots of crises in my life, just like most people. I’ve had two types of cancer and am thankful to be alive. During that journey, I determined not to let fear control my life. Since then, I look at each day as a bonus and try to be grateful for every moment I am alive. Each crisis you weather makes you a little bit stronger to weather the next one.
You don’t need to solve all the problems of a crisis before the crisis impacts, just try to position yourself to be a little bit better prepared and able to manage than the day before. Set some goals and then each day tackle a little bit more.
Of course, the worst case might happen. People who run around in a panic will probably fare worse in every situation and that goes for developing sound situational awareness, making good decisions, and reacting in ways that will help them or their loved ones survive, especially in the worst case.
Keeping a positive attitude and trying to quell anxiety and fear are as important preparedness skills to work on as stockpiling food, I think. During the pandemic, I saw a lot of Covid hysterics, who inflicted a lot of unnecessary fear and anxiety on their kids and I see signs of that happening with some people concerned about the economic crises unfolding now. There is no need to fill your kids with anxiety and worries every day about shortages. Sure, just like with Covid, it was important to talk to kids about what was happening, but there was no need to allow Covid to consume their daily lives, which many people did.
Interestingly, at the link I mentioned of successful businesses started during the Great Depression, at the beginning of this post, Yellow Book USA, was on that list and introduced yellow pages to help customers compare prices. People had to think about purchases and often had to wait to pull together enough money for basic purchases and compare prices.
My late mother was a child during the Great Depression. She said they didn’t wear shoes in the summertime and got new shoes when school started in the fall. She also said she worked picking potatoes and other vegetables for some nearby farm and handed her pay to her parents, who pooled all the family’s resources including money she, her sister and brothers earned, to buy necessities. She said they had to work as a family to get by.
Mass panic is very contagious and it likely spreads faster than Covid, but luckily we all have the ability to prevent it from taking hold in our lives. I’d hate to see a whole other segment of society go off the deep-end about economic crises, like the segment that went bonkers with fear about Covid.
We have the power to control fear.