Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.

andy li cpstauposcw unsplash
Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” is a perfect colloquialism for Newton’s third law of motion. In life as in physics; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Even our good deeds- perhaps especially our good deeds- have consequences. Everything does.

Every action we take or don’t take, or don’t take far enough, or take too far; every trail blazed, every shortcut and work-around, every painstakingly engineered process and carefully calculated action: Everything we set in motion- no matter the purity of our intentions, the quality of our work or our attention to detail- produces an outcome and we can’t always predict it.

In fact, we can almost never predict it.

We can convene quorums of experts, plumb the depths of human knowledge, spend decades in market, tax and policy scholarship and still get it wrong. Or rather, still fail to predict with any accuracy the outcomes of our actions.

Which is why none of our good deeds goes unpunished; solving one problem creates two others, like some sort of mythical hydra. We are Hercules performing his endless labors, we Sisyphus pushing that forsaken rock up the hill for all eternity; try as we might, we can’t get things to turn out just as we want them. We just can’t seem to set the world aright.

Certainly not as often as we’d like. If anyone reading this does always produce their expected outcomes please post your seminar information in the comments.

For the rest of us, at least we come by it honestly. Humans have a number of flaws in our reasoning, perception, and cognition. The baseline human condition is half-formed assumptions, misjudged odds and misguided intentions.

Part of the reason we get it wrong all the time is because humans are easily flummoxed by statistics, by very large numbers and infinitesimally small ones. It’s why coincidences tend to hoodwink us.

When something utterly out of the ordinary happens to us, something vanishingly improbable, we see either rotten luck or a miracle. What are the odds of something like that- a piano falling out of the sky, winning the lottery- happening to us?

Ah, but there’s the twist. Our mind plays tricks- which is why so many people still play the lottery. Your chances of a piano falling onto you out of the sky or winning the lottery are almost nil.

The chances a piano will fall onto someone, somewhere, and that someone will win the lottery are fairly decent. Given the human population of the planet- well over 7 billion souls- there is even a chance someone, somewhere, will eventually win the lottery and have a piano fall on them on the same day.

Stranger things, as they say, have happened.

That seven billion number boggles our minds. The number of seconds in the passage of time, on a timeline the size of an average human lifespan, adds an equally exponential factor to our equations.

As a result, statistics are usually about as useful to us as a Magic Eight Ball. The statistics are fine; our interpretations of them are often mind-numbingly unreliable.

For these reasons, and others, globalism seemed like a good idea at the time. But like all genius human ideas that later turn out to have unforeseen consequences, we failed to take into consideration the size and population of the planet, the finite and environmentally damaging aspects of our machinations, and a timeline of decades- not to mention Murphy’s Law and the the law of unintended consequences, both of which are as immutable as any Newtonian principle.

Today, globalism looks like a complete and abject failure. Not because of what its critics warned would happen- though many of those things, like the gutting of the U.S. manufacturing industry and industrial espionage, did happen- but because of something economists and policy-makers in Washington D.C. and Brussels couldn’t have predicted: COVID-19.

Well, actually; they could have and should have been able to predict COVID-19. Scientists had been warning about the growing potential for an outbreak long before 2020. Whether COVID-19 sprung from a wet market in Wuhan, as was originally accepted as gospel, or leaked from the institute of bat coronaviruses which happens to be located at the epicenter of the outbreak, as is now the more prevailing wisdom, it doesn’t matter.

Lawmakers were warned about both.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, it has suddenly occurred to a large subset of the U.S. population that dependency on a 15,000 mile, petroleum-driven supply chain for the things 330 million Americans use everyday may not be ideal.

It is not ideal under the circumstances of COVID-19 mitigation measures; nor is it ideal for the planet.

This problem should have probably penetrated our collective unconsciousness right about the time avocados started pouring in from Mexico and even further away, rather than California. Climate-changeniks might notice that California is closer and would therefore have a much shorter shipping route.

Asking why avocados were coming from Mexico rather than California would have required confronting another glaring problem in globalism.

Mexico has cheaper labor because it has lower labor standards than those in the U.S. There are fewer onerous environmental regulations in Mexico, too.

This isn’t exactly a good thing.

Gutting the small and mid-size farming industry in California to exploit low-wage workers in other nations and lengthen petroleum-fueled supply chains hardly seems like the international brotherhood “globalism” was said to espouse, but almost no one noticed.

We don’t need to wonder why no one noticed, or why corporate politicians of both parties bought into globalism and sold it to the American people as if it were democracy’s gift to the world.

The trail of money is hard to miss.

Globalism did more to widen the wealth gap than anything since the industrial revolution. By exploiting cheap labor and low environmental regulations, U.S. corporations decimated the working-class in small and mid-sized American towns and got rich doing it.

It is suddenly occurring to everyone- as the things we buy increase by $1, or even $2, as gas doubles in price, then doubles again; when those winter heating bills 54% higher than they were last year start arriving- that globalism might have hurt more than it helped.

The only manufacturers and farming operations which have managed to survive in the U.S. are the biggest ones.

As inflation takes a big bite out of the holidays, and beyond, the flaws in globalism must be admitted. Everything has consequences; no good deed goes unpunished. However pure progressive intentions, the reality, as we are now seeing, is unsustainable.

Globalism has a shocking downside, and, considering the environmental cost of globalized supply chains, the downside might be more catastrophic than anyone could have predicted.

Globalism, not COVID-19, caused the current supply chain and inflation crisis. Globalism, as it turns out, didn’t do much for the environment either, however much greenwashing and virtue signaling major corporations inflict on an overly credulous populace.

If only we had that U.S. manufacturing and farming infrastructure back; if only we could produce the goods we buy all the time on a more local level- spread out, like manufacturing used to be throughout the U.S. in small in mid-size towns- we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Almost nothing is ever all good- or all bad. Globalism has had its advantages, to be sure. Admitting the failures of globalism now, however, is the first step to recovery. It is the first, most necessary step to re-centering U.S. supply chains in the U.S.

Not because we aren’t citizens of the world, but because we are. Globalized supply chains aren’t an issue of morality, of isolationism, xenophobia or nationalism; the issues at stake are resources, particularly fossil fuels, and simple logistics.

Logistics are a purely practical matter; and they can be the Achilles heel of human understanding.

As a wise man once said: “A good general talks tactics. A great general talks strategy. A winning general talks logistics.”

Logistics makes the world go ‘round- or not. Failure to consider things like supply lines means the difference between life and death on the battlefield, in business and in government.

It is time to admit the failings of globalism and commit to U.S.-based supply lines. At the very least, a better balance must be reached between the goods we buy which are produced and shipped from 10,000 miles away in Shanghai, and the goods we buy which come from the state next door.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)