SHORTAGES: A Time of Learning to Live with Less

  • Share
  • Read Later

(9 of 9)

Among Japanese consumers, many of whom recall the severe shortages of the war, the "oil shokku" has also instilled an edginess bordering on hysteria. A casual remark by one shopper to another in Yokkaichi to the effect that oil and electricity were needed in the sugar-refining industry touched off a sugar-buying panic that spread across the whole country last week. Housewives are still trying to lay in supplies of toilet paper after a rumor spread about a forthcoming dearth of that staple. A woman was trampled to death in a toilet-paper stampede in Osaka.

Visible Targets. If the Arabs persist in their embargo, the emergency will bite Americans deeply in a month or so. Old routines in work and play will be disrupted, traveling will become a chore and the novelty of spartan indoor temperatures and reduced lighting will wear thin. Then the public will probably begin a search for scapegoats. The Administration will be high on everyone's list for its failure to foresee and prepare for the crisis. Oil companies will be another target of criticism, because they are so visible and profitable, and calls will rise for increased Government regulation of the industry.

As resentment against the Arabs rises, there will be swelling demands for countermeasures. The U.S. commitment to Israel also will be sorely tested, as the State Department's large pro-Arab contingent, the oil companies and others push for a policy more congenial to the sheiks. Says Professor William Griffith, a Middle East specialist at M.I.T.: "People are not going to urge that we abandon Israel. But you'll hear more and more statements to the effect that the U.S. should moderate its Middle East policy and should pressure Israel to abandon the conquered territories."

In the meantime, the Administration still faces some tough decisions. Even if the White House moved tomorrow to adopt rationing, it would take an estimated three to four months to set a nationwide program in motion. If taxes are to be used to cut energy demand, the White House will have to begin quickly to sell that idea to openly reluctant members of Congress. President Nixon's belated switch away from voluntarism toward executive action is a welcome start in curbing consumption. The question is whether the Government's efforts are timely and tough enough to give the nation at least an even chance of getting through the winter without a severe economic setback and widespread personal hardship.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. Next Page