Monday, May 12, 2008

"As A Primitive People Believed In Magic"

Describing the hyperinflation in his country during the early 1920's, German publisher Leopold Ullstein wrote:

People just didn't understand what was happening. All the economic theory they had been taught didn't provide for the phenomenon. There was a feeling of utter dependence on anonymous powers -- almost as a primitive people believed in magic -- that somebody must be in the know, and that this small group of 'somebodies' must be a conspiracy.

Now read this news report. Anything sound familiar there?

Let's try an experiment. I've already done a stint with the clipboard and gathered some data in the field (results at the end of this article). Now it's your turn. Ask a friend or two this question: "What's the main reason for the high price of gas?" Try to ask someone as average-Joe as possible (i.e., not someone who has a voodoo doll of Ben Bernanke on the nightstand). If you believe, as I do, that real change will come only when the public (at least at the margin) stops praying at the gas pump, debating gas tax holidays, and blaming "conspiracies of somebodies" and instead starts to understand why prices are going up, then the question is an important one.

Post or email me the responses you get.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One week ago, out of nowhere, every story about gas prices included some mention of the weak dollar. That's a start.

I am only paranoid in that when something goes from obscure belief of internet wackos to the conventional wisdom in 48 hours something is up. Something bad. I'm thinking it's the strong dollar out of the barrel of a gun crowd setting us up for some good old fashioned killing of swarthy people.

While the weak dollar is being sited that doesn't mean there will be any mention about the quantity of dollars being the culprit. The chances of that becoming the conventional wisdom are near zero.

5/12/2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Usually I think you bring valuable insight, but here I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

Most people will never recognize their own responsibility in this. Blaming others is way more satisfying.

5/12/2008 3:21 PM  
Anonymous elfranko said...

not to start another "conspiracy of somebodies," but what about gas companies' record profits? i think they've realized they can raise the price of gas all they want, and people will pay.

5/12/2008 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They talk about a strong dollar, but with interest rates going to zero what they say and what they do are two different things.

5/12/2008 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where would the average American hear this information? The evening network news? Cable, if they have it? Radio? The local newspaper? Have you driven across America (N-S, E-W), and listened to the airwaves. It's void of rational intelligent discussion; think Rush Limbaugh and variations of that.

The weekends they're watching football, basketball, baseball, or shopping, gambling, hunting or drinking, if they aren't working. But even if they were presented this important information/news, would they have the foundation to put it into context.

A similar situation - take one of the larges EPA Superfund sites, Picher Oklahoma/Tar Creek. The land was mined for lead and zinc, and the sink holes, toxic waste, and destruction was left for the towns folks and residing Indian tribe (Documentary for Independent Lens, "The Creek Runs Red"). The reason I mention it, because those with power/money profited and controlled the situation. Average folks lacked adequate information/news and education. Monetary, Environmental, what's the difference. We allowed it to happen at our own peril. Our first rule of justice as a Nation should be, "do no harm". We talk about socializing risk and privatizing profits, it's the same thing with environmentally abusive companies. They reap the profits, and we all get to cleanup the mess. Besides trying to contain the toxins, we are providing the residents with a buyouts for their homes because the town is dead, thanks to the abuses of the mining companies and a government who failed to act in a responsible way until it was to late.

If a Democracy requires its constituents to be educated, thinking, and informed. Well, we're in a heap of hurt. Our form of capitalism thrives on ignorance. :-(

5/12/2008 6:27 PM  
Anonymous donailin said...

Supply and demand. We are at the top of the bell curve and it's down hill from here. Whether the slope is gentle or cliff-like is an unknown; you can't tell until it's too late. Right now this is gentle. If oil hits over 200 a barrel by next year brace yourself since there is no alternative online to pick up the slack. However, if we consumers seriously conserve, the slope may not only be less dangerous(all things considered) but beneficial to our future way of life which will be entirely local--as it it ought to be in the first place.

To answer more succinctly: peak oil meets weak dollar meets greedy speculator meets ignorant and stubborn consumer meets violent bush who hastened the inevitable.

5/13/2008 1:03 AM  
Blogger dd said...

The immediate problem is that demand for oil has increased, due to our collective worldwide desire for improved living standards and personal transport, while the supply of oil has not kept pace. The failure of oil supplies to increase in the face of this massive stimulus suggests that we might be reaching some geological limit. If so, the problem will persist for some time.

5/13/2008 3:27 PM  
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