"Stockpiling" is not a dirty word. Stockpiling is not a bad practice.
Sometimes a company buys and stores extra raw materials, parts, or other important supplies which it needs to operate. It may buy far more than it normally needs. It does this because it sees short-term possibilities that (1) demand for its products may spike (so it will suddenly need to produce more than normal) or (2) it may lose access to its supply of those materials (for any number of reasons). So it buys some extra.
Stockpiling is a form of insurance. The company is trying to protect itself from either (1) being shut down because it runs out of materials and can't produce at all or (2) missing opportunities because it can't produce enough.
We don't complain when companies buy and store extra supplies like this. We don't think they're unreasonable to do this. We don't think they're greedy. In fact, we think it's pretty smart, pretty good planning. It's prudent.
What if the stockpiles are never needed?
But what if those shifts in demand or supply don't materialize? What does the company do then?
Whatever course the future takes, at some point the company will use the stockpiled materials. For perishables or any materials which degrade over time, the company can rotate stock ("first-in, first-out") to reduce or prevent wastage. If it ends up not needing some materials, it probably can sell them to some other company. Yes, there is a "cost of money" involved (since cash is tied up in inventory) and there may be a cost for the storage space (maybe not). The company thinks of these costs as nothing more than the "premium" for this "insurance." It's like the premium paid for fire insurance. (And if some of the stockpile goes to waste, so be it. That was a known risk from the outset. That loss makes the "premium" larger, but acceptable.)
In these cases where the extra supplies end up not being needed, we don't necessarily think the companies were foolish to have stockpiled in their best judgment. Just like if their plant doesn't burn down, we don't think the company was foolish to have fire insurance.
Companies are smart to stockpile.
So are hospitals. I've read many reports of hospitals stockpiling extra supplies which would be needed in any pandemic - masks, gowns, gloves, IV supplies, ventilators, etc. They'd be negligent not to, wouldn't they?
And, of course, governments at all levels are making similar pandemic preparations.
The logical disconnect
So why do some people think it's dumb or wrong for an individual or household to store extra supplies in light of a possible flu pandemic?
There's a logical disconnect there.
Even more vexing, some who would criticize pandemic-related stockpiling by individuals do not object to individual stockpiling in general. Is it wrong for me to keep extra batteries, a kerosene heater, a first-aid kit, and non-perishable food against the possibility of a power outage from a hurricane or winter storm? "Of course not," they would say.
We should prepare, shouldn't we?
But surely these same people agree that we absolutely should PREPARE for a pandemic. However, are we only supposed to prepare in those areas which don't involve buying extra supplies? In other words, we should learn all about handwashing and social distancing. And we should plan how to educate our children at home for a few weeks if schools are closed. And we should set up telecommuting services for our employees. But we are not supposed to buy extra food or hand sanitizers or latex gloves or Tamiflu? Huh??
Stockpiling is part of "preparing," too. Stockpiling can help reduce the flu's spread, too.
Am I completely missing something here? Am I totally in a fog? If you have insights to contribute, please send me an email.
Your government agrees with your common sense
As if common sense didn't tell you that individual stockpiling is advisable, just listen to what your governments are saying. They have been REPEATEDLY saying:
* Because the pandemic will affect so many places at once, federal governments will be limited in how much local help they can provide.
* Pandemic preparation at the local and household level is critical.
* Stockpiling is recommended. (They even provide suggestions on what to stockpile!)
My conclusion: Do you want to lessen the economic and societal "shock to the system" (and shock to you) should a pandemic occur? Then stockpile. Start buying what you'll need during a pandemic. Go to your local stores. Look here for other ideas. Start TODAY.
FOOTNOTE #1: The rationale given against individual stockpiling of anything is akin to the rationale given against individual stockpiling of Tamiflu. I think it's a weak rationale; often well-intended, but specious.
FOOTNOTE #2: It probably goes without saying, but encourage others to prepare, too - including stockpiling. If your extended family or the elderly couple next door aren't understanding the risk, consider stockpiling extra to share with them.
FOOTNOTE #3: I haven't addressed the issue of the "haves" and "have nots" among individuals and among the world's countries. For the current discussion, assume everyone in the world has access to needed supplies and has enough income to buy extra supplies. The question is: should they buy those extra supplies? (Or, at the least, should they not be criticized if they do?)