Nails, Pencils, and Chains by Vicki

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost;

For want of a shoe, a horse was lost;

For want of a horse, a rider was lost;

For want of a rider, a message was lost;

For want of a message, a battle was lost;

For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost;

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Wikipedia says that proverb is many centuries old. It’s usually repeated as a cautionary tale. Do all your tasks well, keep everything clean and neat and well-maintained, don’t get sloppy, or bad things will happen. But it can also be read another way: a little problem that no one noticed, that very few people even could have noticed, leads to a big problem for everyone.

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There are a lot of jobs that have been deemed “essential” in the current situation, and a lot more that have been deemed “non-essential.” Some of those non-essential jobs are in factories, which are shut down and not making more stuff. Any stuff we’re using from those factories is coming from inventory.

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It turns out that, on a long enough timescale, almost every legal job that touches “stuff” is essential, and that timescale is not as long as some politicians seem to think. Most of the jobs that touch money are essential, too, because stuff doesn’t move without matching moves of money. Most of the rest are essential as well, if only for the mental health of the workers in the first two categories. People are people, not molding machines.

Source: Nails, Pencils, and Chains by Vicki