The holidays might be a little less warm and cozy if continued supply chain and labor market woes don’t reverse course soon. Those frumpy (but delightfully fuzzy) Santa socks you were waiting to buy and that heady and sultry scotch you wanted to serve your guests might be stuck in a shipping container off a California coastline right now, and there’s not much you can do about it.

The national and global economic challenges of COVID-19 have sometimes been masked by an infusion of “Covid Cash” from the federal government, giving Americans a rosier picture than warranted. But one cannot tempt the “invisible hand” forever. Between genuine concerns about contracting COVID-19, enhanced unemployment benefits, fights about government vaccine mandates, and school shutdowns, it’s no wonder we’re facing supply chain malfunctions and labor shortages.

The United States is currently experiencing a Covid-time high of supply delays, including a number of holiday essentials, like Christmas trees, imported alcohol, and tech toys. This means that late shoppers, a club of which I am a proud member, should get a jump start if we want to give our friends and family gifts before Presidents Day sales begin.

Is there a way out of this job and supply chain slump? Eventually, yes. But it will require a healthier labor market, meaning not only increased natural immunity and vaccination rates, but also a government less inclined to dole out perverse incentives that pay people more money to stay at home than to work. It will also require politicians with a higher tolerance for freedom, allowing individuals, families, and businesses to make their own risk assessments rather than threatening shutdowns and unending mask mandates.

If you’re reading this, chances are the past 18 months have contained both headache and heartache for you and yours. The upcoming holiday season is one that should remind us that what really matters isn’t waiting in some shipping container in the Port of Los Angeles. But even so, the supply backlog represents the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people across the globe who, like us, are looking for some semblance of comfort and joy in a year that has seen far too much chaos.