Supply and Demand – it’s complicated

This isn’t your father’s supply & demand economy

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Supply and demand, for centuries, if not millennia, has been the cornerstone of every economic system and sector.

The supply and demand principle could not be more of a bedrock principle whether you are talking about toilet paper, computer chips or fossil fuels.

At any place, in any market, in any category, supply and demand ruled every aspect of price and availability.

Until 2020, that is.

Like everything else, from employment to stock prices to space travel, few if any principles or realities of our society and markets made it through the economic and philosophical meat-grinder that we call the early 2020s.

Thanks to the upheavals of pay, pandemics and the once-considered near-sacred viability of our supply chains, worldwide confidence in the unerring “invisible hand” of our capitalistic system has been shaken.

Supply and demand, the First Commandment of economies has been found wanting.

Maybe we just never noticed it before, or maybe it didn’t matter until recently, but it turns out that there is a crack, which became a gap, which widened into a chasm between those two simple words – supply and demand.

Two principles that raised their little heads in 2020-21 were logistics and implementation.

Supply, we have painfully learned lately, is irrelevant if access and distribution are not functioning.

Logistics, it turns out, are just as important, maybe even more important than supply.

Much needed supplies and resources mean little if they are tied up in customs, muddled in some paperwork blizzard or lost in a supply chain somewhere.

In the economy of 2020-21, and maybe the foreseeable future, holes, gaps and insurmountable chasms have opened – and will continue to open.

Housing, used cars and the most unstable job market (and stock market) have made the economy the most variable in human history.

And with variability comes hazard and opportunity like we have never seen before.

With more moving pieces and higher stakes than ever, the economy of 2020-21 makes previous economies wrapped around interest rates and basic resources seem like a child’s board game from a distant and vastly more simple era.

With climate change, diversity (or anti-diversity) movements, refugees from war, famine and natural catastrophes on a scale the world has never seen before, pandemics emerging faster than we can even define them, economic inequality expressing itself through vanity space projects and exploding homeless rates, political cynicism and polarity pervading every talk show or neighborhood conversation, and a few other threats, it becomes more of a miracle every day that a simple meal makes its way to our tables.

Economic logic

Our once so certain economic principles, approaching religious dogma for many, have been found inadequate.

Economies, it turns out, like the natural world, have rules of their own; some we will recognize and some we never will.

And there are many core principles of economies that we convince ourselves that we understand, or that we think we can master.

A near global recession every ten years or so should have cleared us of that illusion decades ago.

As Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev put it, “Nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel.”

Economies are not so different.

In a recent survey of young people across the United Kingdom, nearly 80% blame capitalism for the housing crisis, while 75% believe the climate emergency is “specifically a capitalist problem” and 72% back sweeping nationalization. 67% of them would prefer to live under a socialist economic system.

And it’s not just the British; a Harvard University study in 2016 found that more than 50% of young people in the heartland of laissez-faire economics reject capitalism, while a 2018 Gallup poll found that 45% of young Americans saw capitalism favorably, down from 68% way back in 2010. (

As the so-called grown-ups across the country and to a degree around the world, rant and pontificate about “culture wars” wrapped around issues like critical race theory and gender identity, the younger generations wonder if they can even survive.

The talk radio and cable news shows have cultivated more than distrust in government and modern medicine – they have undermined what has been for millennia, the ultimate (and renewable) source of strength and resilience of humanity; hope in the future.

In a recent Instagram survey the question was asked whether you’d rather travel a hundred years back or forward in time. The majority of comments asked: “Are we even going to be around in a hundred years?”

In short, there is a clear generational divide (as if we needed any more dividing lines among us).

For the younger generation, everything between supply and demand looms far larger – if not more menacing.

You could call it the fine print in the marketing or employment contract.

Housing affordability, job satisfaction, anything approximating respect in the workplace and, of course, a livable environment are the (sub) market forces that matter, and will matter even more in years to come.

Workers want, and demand, better pay, but the company that wants to hire competent people that stick around better think about more than just the financial side of work.