‘Tis the season to be jolly, but … (A timely reprint of Vol. V, Art. 34)

Americans of late have become followers rather than leaders and our submission in the world of economics has become an expensive burden for us. We don’t feel the pain yet but we will. After contributing to the development of overseas economies, and even to the rebuilding of war-torn societies, we’ve allowed foreign interests to influence us in much the same way as shepherds would lead a flock. We’ve become complacent, we’re behaving like sycophants, and that’s an unnerving thought. Containerization began in this country, as the whole world knows, and instead of remaining in the forefront we’ve turned the reins over to others. We’re not talking about an insignificant slice of the world’s economy here, we’re talking about a major portion of it.

A maritime official was quoted as saying, “If all aircraft were grounded, the man in the street would hardly notice the difference. But if the world’s merchant shipping was laid up the effects would be catastrophic”. Most of us in the U.S. acknowledge that observation without giving it a second thought, but others around the world are very much aware of that truism. “Ports are economic generators in support of local industry”, a well-known port director has just stated. “We will be looking at what we can do to extend the hinterland into the Midlands and beyond … I am fully aware that the last ten years have been spent on land development … We are seeing a change in cargo operations along with the environmental benefits of moving cargo off the roads … We are going to work to develop that … Removing traffic from our roads brings its own environmental benefits.”

Good thinking. Now we’re getting somewhere. Someone finally picked up on Secretary Mineta’s advice about developing the smaller ports, the ones closer to end users. Right? Not exactly. We wish those observations and intentions were stated by one of our West Coast port officials, but such is not the case. Those words came from the port director for Associated British Ports in South Wales. “We want to see goods destined for Wales coming into Welsh ports,” the port director added, “ then we can provide the service.” Such logic.

As long as U.S. port authorities have developed an inclination to follow rather than to lead, maybe they’ll give some consideration to this man’s remarks. It might not be a bad idea, after all, just to sit back and let someone else worry about the annual increases in cargo volumes. Why shoulder the economic burden of tearing down and rebuilding our roads and bridges to accommodate foreign interests when inaction would save so much time, effort and money? Why not shift the burden to other U.S. port directors? Why not force shipping lines to rely on smaller ships to deliver Asian goods to ports nearer to demanding U.S. consumers? Why be harried by environmentalists and traffic jams day after day? Why make a foolhardy attempt to devour the entire banquet table?

As sure as necessity is the mother of invention, it’s also the mother of trends and developments. When necessity becomes widespread, resistance to change is guaranteed to break down and dissipate in the same way automobile brakes do when they become worn from overuse. It can’t happen soon enough either, because as the man said, “Ports are economic generators in support of local industry”.

[Merry Christmas to your house, from our house.]