The biggest story in the news today, as it has been for 5 months, is the price of oil. There has been a lot of disinformation about what is causing the rise in the price of crude. It has increased 25% in the past 4 months. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and G. W. Bush have been calling for OPEC to increase supply in a season when normal consumption is at its lowest (spring). The forecasted economic slow down is expected to further slow demand by 1.5%. As the price increases it becomes out of reach for many buyers with weaker economies and currencies, also reducing demand. OPEC continues to assert that there is adequate supply to meet demand. Saudi Arabia has even reduced supply slightly in response to the slowing demand. So why is the price of oil continuing to climb?
The daily assertions in the media about fears of disruptions in supply are misleading. The real cause of the price inflation is the weakening US dollar. Hedge funds used to take refuge in gold, silver, platinum and other metals because they offered protection against a devaluating dollar. But the large investors see oil as a better hedge against the devaluating dollar, because it is a world-wide consumable. Recently, market pundits have predicted $200. per barrel of oil, which would more than double the price in a year. That doesn’t reflect supply or demand for oil, but the lack of confidence in the US economy precipitated by the sub-prime banking scandal, massive debt and trade deficit, and a costly war.
Here is the crux of the problem. In the short term, oil provides protection from inflation (devaluation of the dollar), but in the long term the increase in the price of oil causes the cost of food and manufactured goods to increase. That is inflation. To protect against inflation investors continue to bid up the price of oil and thereby cause inflation. It becomes a destructive cycle which has the potential to bring a catastrophic world-wide economic collapse. So far there has been little leadership from governments in the west. Thailand and Indonesia have banned exports of rice in the anticipation of the coming problems. They have effectively taken themselves off the world markets. They will grow their own food and supply their own demand at prices their people can afford. Nationalism has been presented in the corporate agenda driven media as the counter-productive, small minded ideals of backward governments. However, it now will protect countries from the whims of the global investor and soften the blow of a potential world-wide financial catastrophe.
The US has been the detonator for this economic explosion but the problems in the world financial markets are equally as severe as in the US. There has been a tremendous increase in the accumulation of wealth. The imbalance this creates is like a 400 pound guy in a canoe with two 50 pound children. The markets have been destabilized by the relative size of the “players”. Greed, and fear have no conscience and the investors who “play” the markets have no moral, ethical or social responsibility. They play for today with little foresight into the implications their actions will have on tomorrow or on others.
Our relatively short experiment with globalization of world markets has put the future of the planet in the hands of people who have no intention of managing it. They neither want the job nor are capable of handling it. Their goals are incompatible with the task. Political leaders have failed to lead because their leadership has been compromised by duplicity. They know they should do something, but they are afraid to end the party. The party being, the amassing of the world’s wealth by a relative few.
The planet faces environmental, and economic problems of monumental magnitude. The resulting social upheaval could cause unimaginable human suffering and loss if there isn’t inspired leadership. The planet can not survive under the current system. It is destructive, oppressive and diabolic and if left uncontrolled will self destruct. The question is, will our leaders mitigate the suffering and loss by taking the necessary but difficult high road; or will they compromise and surrender to pressures and stand on the sidelines as the impact of their compromises ravishes the nations.
There is a new age coming, heralded and ushered in by a company of forerunners. The current pains are but the birth contractions of a new era. More on that in the coming posts.
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