Monday, December 28, 2009

Mechanics of the Breakdown

Recently, we've looked at some of the mechanics of what it will take to reconfigure the system after the crash (here and here).

I ran across a headline that illustrates some of the mechanics of the crash itself. The event itself was bad enough (trucking company going bankrupt at Christmas), but note the downstream effects caused by a single individual decision - the decision by some corporate exec to halt payment on the company gas cards with truckers on the road. Stupid or malicious, this is the kind of bad decision made by fallible human beings swept up in a wave of negative emotional mood.

Arrow Trucking Strands Drivers During Layoff
Trucking Company Stops Gas Card Payments for Laid-Off Workers
By LAURENT BELSIE

Layoffs are a fact of life in this economy, but there are humane ways to do it. Then there's the Arrow Trucking Arrow Trucking method.

The Tulsa, Okla., trucking company stopped payment on the gas cards of its drivers, leaving some of them stranded Tuesday around the United States, miles from home. No explanation on the website. No one at the company answering phones...

Think about how fugly it will get when state governments and, eventually, the federales have to start cutting entire programs. What happens when the food stamp cards stop working at grocery store? Or the transfer payments stop coming? Then think about the ability of small groups to leverage big violence in the modern era.

That said, that part of human nature that brings people together in a crisis showed up here to, as fellow truckers banded together to assist the truckers dumped by Arrow. Small groups of private citizens, rising to the occasion rapidly to assist others in crisis, while established "safety nets" failed. That theme will dominate 2010, I imagine...

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