If you have been stifling shocked sounds each time you pay at the supermarket, you are not alone. While government officials tendentiously explain why inflation isn’t actually occurring, those of us who are not political puppets know very well that our dollar is not going as far as it did only a short while ago.

This is why my curiosity spiked when, in a folder of recipes that I use on boating trips, I came across a receipt from Trader Joe’s dating from August 2017. This was particularly useful for comparison because I still shop at Trader Joe’s and buy many of the same products. To my surprise, comparing a few items produced an erratic result. The price of one item, rice pilaf, stayed the same, while a can of garbanzo beans increased by 10%. The price of one of my favorite cookies went up by almost 50% while tomato soup sat snugly in the middle with a 30% increase. It goes without saying that, in many cases, the package sizes have shrunk noticeably since 2017, meaning that the price staying the same is an illusion. More money for the same thing or the same money for a smaller thing–comes out the same. We lose. I did not compare prices on vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, or dairy items, though my sticker shock when shopping tells me that these staples have all been going up, up, and up.

What to make of my unscientific survey?

Attempting to sum up my findings in one word, I keep on thinking ‘erratic’ and ‘insecure’. In the old Soviet Union, you never knew what would be for sale and what would be missing. Did a shipment of shoes come into the store? It didn’t matter if you didn’t need shoes or if they were the wrong size, you bought them anyway. There might not be any available when you did need them down the road or, in an alternative scenario, they could be bartered for something you did need.

On a national level, a primary job of the government is to provide economic stability. It achieves this crucial function mainly by exercising financial discipline and not printing more money than the value created by the aggregate economy. This requires strong moral governance because, after all, spending other people’s money is just plain fun, and giving money to people encourages them to vote for you.

In a functioning nation, workers can accept a job at a certain salary and vendors can price items for sale feeling secure that they won’t need to argue for a raise or bump up prices tomorrow. Citizens can reliably plan for the future as they buy homes or cars. If the disturbed expressions I am seeing next to me in the supermarket checkout line are any indication, that certainty is not the case today.

There are other new costs piling up. I already find myself collecting plastic and paper supermarket bags. Various localities and stores no longer supply them. What basic item is slated to be next for extinction? These concerns go hand-in-hand with concerns as to whether local supermarkets and stores will become targets for violent mobs or victims of extensive shoplifting, both necessitating price hikes.

Yes, I can trim our budget and shop online. The first alternative reminds me that our standard of living has dropped while the second cuts me off from my neighbors as well as reducing my privacy and leaving me more vulnerable to an overreaching government exploiting digital tools.

Yet, all these negative trends are offset by an increasingly loud group of fellow-thinkers who are recognizing that silence in the face of destructive trends in the United States, Canada, England, and other countries is acquiescence. Historically, economic destabilization is a step towards the implementation of tyranny. Grocery shopping should not be a gambler’s game.

This Musing is dedicated in memory of Staff Sgt. Adir Bogale, age 20. He was a member of the elite Golani brigade and was killed battling terrorists on October 7, 2023, at the Nahal Oz IDF outpost.

And with prayers for the health and safety of the hostages and their release, among them, Doron Steinbrecher, a veterinary nurse, age 30. As the Red Cross has proven its uselessness at best and evil at worst by not demanding to see the hostages, Doron’s capture is not verified. She was in her home alone in Kfar Aza on October 7, 2023, and sent her friends the message, “They’ve arrived, they have me.”

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