Saturday, November 21, 2009

'Corporate Efficiency', 'Emergency Rationing', and the Irony Deficit

This piece serves two purposes; I want to make a real (if snarky and highly ironic) comparison between the 'greater efficiency' of the private sector that conservatives love to rattle on about and how the real world actually works. I also wish to make a misanthropic and cynical observation about people, regardless of their politics.

Opponents of substantive health care reform always talk about the superior quality and efficiency of service offered by the 'free market.' Indeed, many individuals on both sides of the political fence are in love with the 'efficiency' of the corporate model. They believe that corporate administration is less bureaucratic than government administration (it's not), that the private sector is more accountable for its failures than government (ha!), and that the corporate management model is streamlined to produce more immediate results. They fail to understand that today's corporate model is top heavy with a bloated management structure that exists to guarantee its own success and always cuts the product end of operations in the name of 'efficiency' while management acts as if nothing has changed at all within their own corner of the company.

A case in point:

Kellogg Co. says there will be a nationwide shortage of its popular Eggo frozen waffles until next summer because of interruptions in production at two of the four plants that make them.

The company's Atlanta plant was shut down for an undisclosed period by a September storm that dumped historic amounts of rain in the area. Meanwhile, several production lines at its largest bakery in Rossville, Tenn., are closed indefinitely for repairs, company spokeswoman Kris Charles said in an e-mail.


Corporate efficiency, that's the ticket. Kellogg, a tremendously successful company that could serve as a working model for corporate success, is is unable to adapt to unforeseen difficulties any better than the government might. Just as one plant is seeing production lines shut down 'indefinitely' for repairs, a storm shuts down another for an 'undetermined' period. Now the storm is truly a freak act of nature which cannot be completely predicted and about which very little can be done. However, regular maintenance schedules should avoid the need for 'indefinite' shut-downs for repairs. More importantly, there are very few conceivable reasons for a repair shut-down to be 'indefinite.' Estimates for repair time and costs are not difficult to obtain... unless one is looking to cut corners by taking too much time to shop the price in the interests of the 'bottom line.' Ultimately, a shortage of one of their most popular products could damage the brand in the long run... unless, of course, the joy of full availability leads to a massive buying spree as soon as Eggo returns to the market. If this happens, they could end up making a significant profit from the shortage.

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting a conspiracy to create a deliberate shortage of a popular product during economic difficulty in order to generate increased demand. I am simply noting that a corporation could end up profiting from the results of a shortage caused by poor planning and a lack of alternative plans.

This is a point that bears consideration. When a mistake of this magnitude is potentially without consequence because of the increase in sales created by the increase in demand during the shortage, it offers no incentive to take precautions to avoid such a mistake. So much for the superiority of 'corporate efficiency' trumped by conservatives. This is precisely why the government needs to be involved in the social sector and why regulation is necessary for that range of corporate activity more serious than a waffle shortage. This circumstance illustrates just how far from perfect the 'free market' is and just how dangerous it is to assume its automatic superiority.

I want to add a hat-tip to stay-at-home mom and blogger Joey Rescinti. Though the Associated Press noted her comments about the 'waffle shortage' and even interviewed her, they failed to include a link to her blog or even its name. This is a good example of the kind of sloppy journalism we must deal with today.

I also want to note the deficiency of humor/irony in the world today and the generally judgmental and nasty turn of mind many people find the internet allows them to over-indulge. Mrs. Rescinti made a nicely turned barb about 'rationing' her child's waffles and found herself attacked in cyberspace by random jack-asses. I don't know anything about Mrs. Rescinti's politics and they are entirely her business. Regardless of politics (and considering the nasty 'health food' tone of some of the attacks I am sure that the snots in question were liberal snots), this is just disgusting.

I can understand why tempers get heated when discussing serious political issues or controversial social topics. I have been very upset with people on occasions myself and can be very harsh with people I believe show a lack of intellectual capacity, a failure of common sense, a deficit of honesty, or simply strike me as mean-spirited and callous. I plead guilty. Likewise, I am sure I come off as snotty and superior to many people who disagree with me because of my own confidence in my own moral structure and view of religion and philosophy.

All of that is very different from taking time out of one's busy day to be unnecessarily vicious to a random blogger because you don't like that she feeds her child Eggo waffles or believe an ironic barb about 'rationing' during the 'shortage' is anything but a very clever joke.

Such people are fools.

4 comments:

JoeyRes said...

I am so grateful that you would take time out of your busy day to support me! You have restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.

I do have to say though that the country must be much better off than I thought it was - I didn't realize everyone was eating whole grains and fresh fruit for every meal!

Chris Richards said...

'I am so grateful that you would take time out of your busy day to support me! You have restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.'

Well, I noticed the story right away because it fit so perfectly in tune with the article from The American Prospect I referenced, about the craze for 'corporate efficiency.' I wanted to give you a hit tip, but the AP story failed to actually name your blog (as I said). It took me a couple moments to track it down, and when I did I saw the second post showing some of the hateful crap you'd received.

I /expect/ hateful crap, but that is because I am an elitist socialist with a belief in my own moral and intellectual superiority. That will ruffle feathers. I can't stand someone picking on /you/ for such stupid reasons, much for the same reasons I became a socialist... and it certainly doesn't hurt that such people are the reason I became an elitist. ;)

'I do have to say though that the country must be much better off than I thought it was - I didn't realize everyone was eating whole grains and fresh fruit for every meal!'

In my experience, the spoiled upper-middle class are able to be nasty about healthy diets because they can afford to eat healthy. I don't think most of them have ever been on a budget and I don't think they are in touch with what real people pay for groceries.

I just wonder how many of the people acting like monkeys actually eat the way they say you should eat and how many of them are just induldging a primitive urge to throw their feces at someone.

Please forgive the somewhat raw nature of my humor. I tend to believe in what someone once called 'colorful metaphor.'

JoeyRes said...

Hateful crap keeps coming, it must be a "primitive urge to throw feces" as you say. I can't figure out what they're getting out of being so mean, but I am looking forward to browsing around your blog just in case I ever decide to go controversial and earn the wicked comments I'm getting. If I could get more controversial than breakfast foods that is.

Chris Richards said...

'I can't figure out what they're getting out of being so mean, but I am looking forward to browsing around your blog just in case I ever decide to go controversial and earn the wicked comments I'm getting.'

Everyone's welcome, and feel free to be hateful if anything here pisses you off. :)

As for what they are getting out of being so mean, sadly, I think I have to use someone else's words instead of my own:

"The blog world has become accustomed to the participation of those for whom anonymity provides courage, that is those who find the blog an instrument of vituperation, anger, and bitter ad hominem revenge on the world. No one has yet devised a proper method of shunting anger into a more productive project. For those who are bitter, we must have sympathy but no respect."

-- Gary Hart

I think that really says it all.