By Chris McClure, Contributing Editor

I’ve never been much of a fan of someone telling me what I should think. This tendency was particularly troublesome to me in high school and college classes where the instructor assigned grades that were highly correlated with their own points of view. I’m thinking especially of English or history assignments in which “interpretation” of an event, or a written work was “sliced and diced” far beyond what might be considered credible and often entered into the realm of make believe.

My father was an educator who emphasized thinking rather than memorizing someone else’s dogma. He taught me to gather the facts, dig a little deeper, expand my research to ascertain context and then to form my own opinions. I have tried to live by that method and it sometimes leads me down “less-beaten” pathways. The scenery is usually more interesting on those trails.

Why am I heading down this rabbit trail? Well, I suppose it has to do with the election. Quit telling me who won before all the votes are counted, the re-counts are conducted as needed and the lawsuits have been settled. We may still be listening for the “fat lady” to sing until after the fiasco we have known as 2020 is put to bed.

This election cycle, which may be slow in ending, has the fragrance of a feedyard after a good rain. There has been plenty of organic fertilizer produced by both sides, and it really isn’t doing any of us any good. We need to figure out how to convert political promises into something useful.

The question of the day, however, is where do we go from here? Are we looking at a mask mandate? Higher taxes? More pressure from the animal rights activists? A return to status quo in which the quid pro quo between private industry, foreign governments and politicians is kept quietly hidden away like the proverbial pea in a shell game? If you can never put your finger on the pea, it’s difficult to prove that it exists – or doesn’t.

How long will it be before the tab becomes due on the wrecked economy that has opened government coffers in ways similar to war time? Someone is going to pay for the largesse and that someone is us. It makes it more than a little disheartening to be a producer when those who are purely “takers” are going to get a big chunk of it.

Maybe I got sidetracked a bit here, but it’s relevant to the question of where do we go from here? It’s part of the “gathering-the-facts” stage of making an informed guess. For context, we have past changes in administration and examples of an economy devastated by unexpected events – World War II comes to mind.

Several things came out of that war that reverberate throughout our country even today. 1) The military-industrial complex became thoroughly established. 2) Taxes in the 1950s were at some of the highest levels ever in the history of the country. 3) More power accreted to the federal government. 4) People became increasingly reliant on the government to provide a safety net. 5) There was a global realignment of power among nations.

I’m open to someone pointing out to me how any of those things is not likely to happen again as a result of the events of this past year. It may take some time before it triggers, but I think we will also see a rise in both inflation and interest rates.

I think the reaction of the stock market to the “announced” election results is indicative of what we will see. The market basically said, “Yay, it’s back to business as usual.”

By the way, the big news of today was the announcement that a particularly large pharmaceutical company has created a vaccine that is 90 percent effective in stimulating immunity to COVID-19. I find that absolutely amazing. I’ve seen enough cattle fail to respond to multiple rounds of vaccinations that I find the claim to be highly suspect. Stress, genetics, previous disease, nutrition and other less-obvious factors affect immune response. The test subjects must have been virtually ideal candidates in order to get those results.

The next question will be whether vaccination is mandatory or voluntary. See paragraph one if you want some insight into my response to a mandatory vaccination policy. I’ve never had a flu shot and don’t plan to get one. Instead, I’ll focus on nutrition, avoid exposure if possible and get plenty of sunshine and fresh air. The best way to fight disease is to do those things most likely to keep you healthy!

So, again, where to from here? I think the answer is to focus on those things that are most likely to keep our businesses healthy.

If you want to know what those things are, begin by measuring those things that impact the bottom line. It might be mill efficiency, fewer down hours for equipment, or less time wasted on Facebook or whatever its replacement will be due to the backlash from their censorship tendencies. I don’t know what metrics you should be focusing on, but YOU should. Each of us needs to know what drives our bottom line and then measure those factors with an eye to improvement.

When the final vote is counted and the lawsuits have run their course, I will look at the tally and know the winner. Until then, I’ll stick with those things that I know make a difference in my own business.