Current lexicon: Bottleneck – Opinion

Toilet paper, gasoline, truck drivers: the balance between supply and demand can be upset, as is the case now in the UK.

Anyone who has lived in the GDR is familiar with empty shelves. In market economies, on the other hand, the shelves are usually full because prices regulate supply and demand. Sometimes, however, the market does not work and supply shortages suddenly arise. Such cases have recently increased. In February 2020, when the pandemic began, supermarkets suddenly had to ration toilet paper. Supply chains are currently being disrupted in industry because Asian manufacturers are not delivering enough semiconductors. The most spectacular failures, however, are experienced by Great Britain. Due to the lack of truck drivers, petrol stations are running out of gas, which has meanwhile led to a real supply crisis. Such crises always occur when either the demand rises abruptly (people hoard toilet paper). Or if the offer suddenly fails, for example due to political decisions (because of Brexit, truck drivers from continental Europe will be kept away from the British market). The German term “bottleneck”, which has become naturalized for such shortages, originally simply referred to a “narrow pass” between two mountain valleys. The reassuring thing about it: Once you have overcome a narrow pass, the rest of the way becomes easy.


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