Stopping Inflation III

In the previous two posts, I pointed out how we have restricted instead of expanded the supply of crucial commodities leading to higher prices. Higher prices are just another way to say inflation. Another way to raise prices is to add to costs. According to Forbes, the United States is no longer in the top 15 countries to do business. While U.S. News & World Report rates us the 6th best nation overall, it drops us down to #45  in their “open for business” category. Why isn’t the the top of the business-friendly? What does it mean for prices now and into the future?

I discussed Ezra Klein’s lament that the Government couldn’t do things reasonably a few posts ago. Government policy determines whether a place is an excellent place to get things done. Comparing a Government-sponsored high-speed rail in California and a private venture in Florida, the latter exists while the other is a rumor. Already owning the right of way, the private railroad didn’t have to deal with governments. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have that luxury. Hence our poor ratings.

Two things vex people in dealing with governments: who are the responsible person I can deal with, and how much time will it take to get approvals? Faced with these hurdles, it’s no wonder many businesses decide to set up shop elsewhere. Being bounced from one agency to another while being hit with lawsuits from environmentalists, nimbies, native Americans, and preservationists have been the fate of far too many ventures.

For those unable to go elsewhere, costs can be open-ended and only recovered at higher prices—a housing project scheduled for one-year development that takes three results in expensive houses. How we can turn this around while still respecting the concerns of others is the challenge. 

In my series “The Long Journey to More,” the 2016 Post “Time is Money and does it Pencil Out,” I suggested a way to place responsibility while cutting project times. Where different government levels and entity approvals are needed, a triage should occur whereby the entity most involved appoints a project manager who posts the project to inform affected parties to make objections known. The manager works out a timetable for them to present their case. If the results are agreeable to whoever proposed the project, it can go forward or pass.  

After hearing the objections and the project sponsors’ replies, the manager approves or disapproves. If approved, the project can go ahead. Of course, objectors can still sue, but they pay all costs if they lose. 

The advantage of this program for any project, private or Government, is they deal with one person and have a reliable timeline. Many projects never contemplated in the U.S. because of open-ended confusion and timelines will now be found doable.

On the other hand, some projects shouldn’t go forward. The objections are valid. Knowing this outcome in a reasonable length of time helps everyone. 

We can take further steps to speed up the process. Some areas may have religious or archeological values that take precedence over development. Rather than proposing a project and then finding these objections, why not have a commission evaluate all areas not to be disturbed because of their religious or archeological worth?

The religious sites shouldn’t be a problem. If the places are of great importance, they are known to the religious leaders. No one wants to dig up a burial ground by mistake. Being aware allows for workaround for respecting everyone’s interests.

Anticipating the unknown will benefit all parties. Digging anywhere may mean finding stuff. Some of it may be of great archeological importance. Protocols should already be in place on how to handle the artifacts.

When finding something, a team of trained people on call is dispatched to the site to assess. Meeting with the project manager, the sponsors, and the team leader, an action plan to retrieve the objects as quickly and safely as possible serves everyone.

Digging a new subway line under London resulted in fabulous finds, but all parties worked together. While completing the line, they added to our archeological wealth. 

You may have guessed I have a great interest in archeology and history; by agreeing on handling how finds in advance, everyone can come out a winner. How we plan to manage will keep things from getting out of hand.

Environmental concerns are, of course, the elephant herd in the room. We already have a substantial amount of data we can use to construct an ecological map of the U.S.

 Delineating zones based on sensitivity is an enormous task but one of great value in deciding on a project and where to locate it. Rather than looking in a zone 1-Highly sensitive area, a zone 5-low sensitivity location is a better choice. Remember, much of the info exists. It just needs to be pulled together and subjected to consistent standards. It might be costly but will save much more in the long run.

Knowing the environmental status of the site and whether there might be religious or archeological problems, the development proposal could provide solutions. 

These steps make the project manager’s job much more palatable, slashing the required time. Time is money saved. Money saved lowers costs. Lower costs cuts prices. Lower prices and we have less inflation.

Those in the community looking forward to the jobs and economic benefits of lower-cost housing, business development, or extraction project could weigh in.

There are rarely perfect solutions, but there are the best possible for everyone. That should be our goal.

The effect of all this may not be immediate, but if people sense prices fall in the future, it will mute the inflationary expectations that significantly contribute to rising costs. 

People say international pricing means there is nothing we can do. That isn’t true. Bad actors can’t hold us hostage, and domestic production means fewer supply chain problems. Domestic natural gas means we pay far less for power than the Germans. Increased U.S. production of anything exerts downward price pressure all over the world. If a major factor like the U.S. only consumes and doesn’t produce up to its capabilities it harms everyone.

The Biden administration can’t see much to do to fight inflation. In these few posts, I’ve offered some possibilities. Unfortunately, a little imagination is too much to expect from our present leaders.

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