Thursday, August 09, 2012

Economic “Crowding Out”- Your Family Story that Leads to Your View of Sustainability

I had a student in an economic class I teach ask a question about an economic issue of the government “crowding out” business. The answer to the question was simple but not. :)      

I pointed out there are a variety of views in economics. Even authors of the textbooks have a slant on the subject while trying to share principles. Economic “crowding out” boils down to business feeling it is left out of the flow of money on services, products and projects in the US by government.

This issue is a loaded political question as well. Republicans feel strongly that government should stay out of business type projects, services and products. Democrats view this as part of the process of government of helping the citizens especially when times are hard.

The Government operating projects themselves such as “Public Works” projects during the “Great Depression” is a concern for those worried about “crowding out”.  At that time unemployment was so high that the government stepped in to create jobs itself. For a variety of reasons the government did not depend on the local business community to do that. Remember many large and small businesses had gone out of business themselves leaving a huge void of jobs. Public Works projects were viewed as “crowding out” even though at the time the void of businesses was huge.

An example of "crowding out" on a personal level was presented to me by an individual less than a year ago. The person's grandfather during the "Great Depression" felt he was "crowded out" in the development of the Grand Coulee Dam project. The dam was built through a huge “Public Works” project. This meant the government ran the project and hired the workers directly.

The catch I saw here was if the project had been put up for bid the project would have required a very large business to have the skills to handle a project of this size. This individual’s grandfather obviously was not a large enough business even by today’s standards to bid on the government contract of this size in the first place. He “might” have had a chance as a subcontractor but in that time period even that would have been doubtful. Subcontractors even today usually go to the “friends” of those that win the large government contract. This person’s grandfather lived in a little tiny town in Eastern Washington State. The contract more than likely would have been won by a large company out of the region who knew how to handle very large dam projects. It made for a “good family story” why they are not rich now. The family felt they were “crowded out” of the money stream. It has kept the family believing strongly though that the government should stay out of business. It would be interesting in how they view Sustainability today.

My “family story” is completely different when it comes to the Grand Coulee Dam project. My grandfather was hired by the government to be a time clock keeper on the project. This job saved my family from destitution during the Great Depression. The chances of the individual’s grandfather hiring my grandfather to do that was next to nil. While his family was mad they did not get rich. Mine was thankful they were kept from extreme poverty. Besides this work my grandparents worked in every way to sustain the family.  They sold fish in the hot summer to workers in the hop fields.  They canned all the fruit they could, stocked up for the winter and recycled all they could. My grandparents when the Great Depression started to disappear moved to Western Washington State and opened up a Long Term Care business because my grandmother was a nurse.  She could not get a job during the Depression.  This successful business gave jobs to my mother, a college education to my uncle and an interest in business and healthcare to the grandchildren.   

My husband’s family had a similar story but they were in the logging industry during the Depression.  They canned and recycled everything.  Then they developed an insulating business during the post WWII housing boom.  My husband’s mother, also, had a job in the business.  The business sustained my husband’s four generational home.

Remember in all economic issues there are winners and there are losers.

Now how does this family story relate to our views of Sustainability?

My husband and I have spent our lives trying to work hard and reach for every opportunity that was available.  Sustainability of the family has held the highest priority for us.  Sustainability means working hard, storing the necessities of life to hedge against emergencies, recycling items, conserving where possible, living several generations together if need be [our son and grandson live with us], yet enjoying the benefits of the current economy such as technology and still yes, having time for family, extended family and friends.  This seems simple but as you know it requires commitment to the principle of the Sustainability of the Family.  This then extends to our thinking of Sustainability of our neighborhood, county, cities near us, region, state, country, continent and the whole earth.  Sustainability begins in the home and then extends beyond.  Keeping this process going for generations is the goal.

I am sure you have a family story and how that impacts your views of Sustainability.  Judy


Milkranes said...

Hi, I'm from Singapore. I read your stories with great fascination. My grandparents and their families survived through WWII because they had their own farm in the middle of a jungle. They were self-sufficient and didn't have to suffer as much as the city folks. Unfortunately, the family stories did not passe down. Today, most Singaporeans lived in safe and materialistic cocoon, completely oblivious to our grandparent's survival stories. I always know we should not waste, recycle and be prepared. Can you share your methods on how to store food and fruits? Thanks for your stories.

Judy Justice said...

Thanks for your kind words. I will give some storage ideas in my postings in the future. Judy