Tuesday, May 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Heart And Soul Of U.S. Commerce

In my previous post I made a case for reopening America’s
restaurants in most locales. Most of those restaurants are
small businesses which do not have the resources to survive
a long shutdown even with temporary takeout and delivery
services. Of course, such reopening needs to be carefully
managed by restaurateurs and their staffs to ensure the
health and safety of their customers and themselves.

But what of the countless other small retail and service
businesses which make up such an important part of
American commerce?

The answer is urgently the same.

But beyond the immediate reasons to make sure small
businesses of all kinds make it through this pandemic
crisis is a consideration that existed before the health

There has been an increasing awareness that artificial
intelligence (A.I.) and robotics technology will replace a
huge part of the global workforce, especially in the U.S.,
and that most of the jobs lost will be irreplaceable.
This will not happen overnight, but is likely to happen
gradually over the next 15-25 years. That means tens of
millions of Americans will be permanently unemployed.
What to do with this dire situation is one of the greatest
challenges facing political leaders today (not surprisingly,
however, few of them are even talking about it).

There are solutions to this dilemma, and one promising
path is the fact that the U.S. is the quintessential
entrepreneurial nation and society. With education and
encouragement, most of the younger workers who now
work for someone else, particularly employers who will
adopt AI and robotics, can become self-employed ---
entrepreneurs especially providing services not provided
by the new technologies.

This transformation can happen and work, but it is not
likely to take place if younger workers see a wipe out of
small entrepreneurial businesses from the current
crisis. If massive endemic unemployment is to be
avoided in the future, entrepreneurship needs to be
seen as a viable and attractive work path.

That is the “big picture” long-term reason to preserve
U.S. small businesses. There are also numerous more       
immediate reasons, including the welfare of small
business owners and their families, their employees and
the “supply chains” of vital goods and services they

Most big corporations and big businesses can and will
survive the current emergency. (It is important to note
that almost all of them started out as small businesses!)

The small business community is the heart and soul of
our free enterprise system. Each part of it, of course,
has its own conditions and circumstances, as does the
restaurant industry --- so while its reopening and
survival is urgent, it must be done in the context of the
health and safety of the community as a whole.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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