The Invisible, Strangling Hand

Some looney toons economists would have you believe that everything would be better without any kind of regulation, as the economy is guided by an ‘invisible hand’.  These people are half right, in the sense that the economy, the real non-monetary economy, is composed of billions of ‘invisible hands’.  There is no easier way to see the principles of chaos theory, or the so-called ‘Butterfly Effect’ at work than to look at global economics.  The global economy is affected at some level by all things, that happen everywhere.  Where they are wrong is in their claim that this will lead to anything other than a gradual concentration of wealth in a smaller and smaller percent of the population, this having the secondary effect of making a higher and higher percent of the population into second class citizens, essentially 21st century slaves. Lately, however, it has become clear that there is one group of hands consistenly and thoroughly shaping the economy in their favor, and at ridiculous expense to the rest of the world.  While this could be applied to the world’s richest people in general, the very specific example I am referring to is the Oil Industry, and all those involved in the supply side of the oil economy. 
At the hands of Saudi Arabia and the essentially combined entity of Big Oil and the Bush Administration, oil prices have gone through the roof and the entire world has suffered for it.  Despite year after year of record profits, oil prices continue to rise at the hands of OPEC, the world’s most powerful cartel.  By reducing the amount of oil being pumped, our Big Oil companies, as well as the state controlled oil industries (socialism!) of the middle east, are all able to raise the price of oil by effectively lowering their operating costs.  A win-win, if you will, at least as far as those at the supply side of the oil economy are concerned.  Other ‘people’ who aren’t particularly bothered with this are ther world’s private energy companies, who simply pass of price increases to their consumers, often with an additional bit of pie for themselves.  While increases in energy rates and gas prices hurt all of America’s businesses, those that don’t go under often manage to do so by again passing their hurt onto the world’s consumer class.  Which brings us to the ultimate victim of the oil companies’ price gouging: you, the consumer, of anything.  The price we pay at the pump is only the most obvious way we get screwed, as the price you pay for any product will reflect increases in both the cost to manufacture and transport these goods.  The price of everything from corn flakes to condoms is controlled, in a variable but ever present way, by the petroleum industry.

In America, our Big Oil companies are motivated by both their ridiculously excessive greed  and the staggering amount of political clout their wealth affords them.  Even with their record profits, there is also the fact that our big banks subsidize their riskier business ventures with our money at interest rates they would never consider giving their actual human customers.  On the other side of the globe the Arabian oil exploitation is fueled not simply by greed, but also by a firm religious conviction of superiority.  This conviction is backed up, in the circular logic prevalent in arguments of faith, by their abundance of oil with which they can control  the world’s economy.

Now, people cast about, flailing like fish on dry land, trying to find a solution to high gas prices like it were the unified field theory.  Here is an easy, immediate solution.  As a nation, work with other nations to bring up the production of oil, and demand that prices be lowered, regardless of the effect on the absurdly corpulent profits of the industry, with a message that if this is not done their wells will be nationalized, by whichever nation said assets happen to reside in, and their oil sold at a fair price.  We can then work with other similar minded countries, such as perhaps Venezuela, to bring down the global price of oil and oil derived energy.  Speaking of Venezuela, the policies of Hugo Chavez are an excellent example of intelligent and beneficial resource management.  Personally, I feel that a nation’s resources belong, in majority, to the people of the nation, and any  sale of said resources should never be used to exploit the people of the nation.  If corporations are unable to not fuck their customers and workers over, and the behavior of private energy companies across the globe would certainly indicate that this is true, then nationalization seems like a beneficial solution to all those involved, except for those who have already proven to not be remotely responsive to the nation’s best interests, as opposed to their own personal greed.  The term for a person like  this 100 years ago was robber baron, and it remains as accurate today as it did then.

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