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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:American Voters Need a 'Supermarket Epiphany'

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Back in my Houston days, I often shopped at H-E-B, and admired the chain so much that it immediately popped into my mind when I read about Boris Yeltsin's "supermarket epiphany."

His obituary in the New York Times read in relevant part:

HEB.jpg
Image by ArtisticOperations, via Pixabay, license.
On a visit to the United States in 1989, he became convinced that Russia had been ruinously damaged by its state-run economic system, in which people stood in long lines to buy the most basic needs of life and more often than not found the shelves bare. Visiting a Houston supermarket, he was overwhelmed by the kaleidoscopic variety of meats and vegetables available to ordinary Americans.

...

A Russia scholar, Leon Aron, quoting a Yeltsin associate, wrote that Mr. Yeltsin was in a state of shock. "For a long time, on the plane to Miami, he sat motionless, his head in his hands," Mr. Aron wrote in his 2000 biography, Yeltsin, A Revolutionary Life. "What have they done to our poor people?" he said after a long silence.
I recalled this story when I encountered a Texas Monthly interview titled, "Inside the Story of How H-E-B Planned for the Pandemic." The following quote from the the company's Director of Emergency Preparedness, Justen Noakes, just about says it all:
[W]hen did we start looking at the coronavirus? Probably the second week in January, when it started popping up in China as an issue. We've got interests in the global sourcing world, and we started getting reports on how it was impacting things in China, so we started watching it closely at that point. We decided to take a harder look at how to implement the plan we developed in 2009 into a tabletop exercise. On February 2, we dusted it off and compared the plan we had versus what we were seeing in China, and started working on step one pretty heavily. [bold added]
Readers here may recall that the CDC was still fumbling around developing a test for the virus in February, despite the fact that the information on how to make tests was widely available and there were already tests in use.

Aside from the piece in Texas Monthly being a valuable and enjoyable read, it is something to keep in the back of your mind for the next time you hear conventional "wisdom" to the effect that we "need" government to coordinate major undertakings or that the private sector is interested only in making a quick buck.

In tough times, many Americans could do with a story like this.

Furthermore, many of us should ask, in Yeltsin's vein, "What have we done to ourselves?" by relying too heavily on the government to take care of so many of our needs.

-- CAV

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