We all know the fable of the grasshopper and the ant. Diligent ant stores up for winter while crass, cavorting grasshopper parties the warm days away. When cold weather rolls in, the ant survives and the grasshopper starves.
The business equivalent to this story was expressed by a manufacturer friend of mine in the early days of the financial crisis, “If we’d worked as hard to get new customers when times were good as we are now, we wouldn’t have a problem.”
There is a moral in this for our country as we come through a new kind of crisis.
Two dichotomous but equally false perceptions about government seem prevalent during periods of national prosperity. One is that it should be top down, the other that we should tear it down. Neither stands us in good stead in the face of a pandemic.
Government at all levels and at all times must have sufficient funding to be prepared for emergencies. Nearly as important, those elected to oversee government should show proper respect to the institution and the people who make it their career. The same agencies that are often vilified and starved of funds are now being asked to keep our citizen’s alive, informed and able to pay their rent. For staffers at these agencies, the whiplash must be disorienting.
In response to the contrary progressive insistence on large federal structures to ensure equitable outcomes, our fragmented allocation of authority in the United States, rather than causing fragility, is a source of innovation and strength. In this crisis, states and cities have become the laboratories in which response mechanisms are tested, even as governors, mayors and local health care providers far outside Washington have emerged as figures of wisdom and comfort. Federalism, it turns out, is a good idea.
Where does this leave us? As it is the Christian Holy Week, we’ll turn to the scriptures for a closing, but we’ll look back 2,000 years before the Gospels to Jacob in Egypt. When Pharaoh had a troubling dream of seven skinny cows devouring seven cows, Jacob advised him that the nation should store up food in a time of plenty because a famine was coming.
Jacob was an ant. My grandparent’s generation was made up of ants. Right now, we’re all learning to be a bit ant-like. Let’s pray that our nation will act more like an army of ants in the years to come.
The Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation this week wishes to share our sincere appreciation for area bankers. Over the past two weeks, the men and women in local banks have been called upon to help thousands of businesses navigate unprecedented challenges using brand new tools. They have done so tirelessly and expertly, and they deserve the gratitude of all of us.