01 February 2016

Right-Wing Market Analysis Wanting

I turned on Rush Limbaugh the other day while in the car and he was extolling the wonders of the Free Market and its effect on the price of oil. He attributes the low price at the pump to the miracle of Fracking.

This represents a pretty typical example of Right-wing reductionism. They've taken something that's complex and tried to reduce it to a simple argument. It's disingenuous as well, but truth isn't something he's interested in. He just wants to score points.

What he's saying isn't entirely wrong, but by eliminating so many other factors that are necessary to properly contextualise (and therefore understand) the issue, he actually is wrong. While there's a kernel of truth, by focusing solely on that one point he's actually misrepresenting the subject and therefore is in the ultimate sense... wrong.

Limbaugh fails to take into account that it's not just oil that's low. There's not just an oil glut that's 'fueling' the low price. In fact all commodities are presently low, and while in one sense there's a glut in another sense it's really a lack of demand.

An over-supply can be called a 'glut' but the connotation of a glut is a super-abundance that surpasses demand. That's not really the case at the moment. There's plenty of oil out there at present to be sure. The high prices from a couple of years ago facilitated investment in exploration and infrastructure. Let's grant there's a glut but let's admit it's highly exacerbated by low demand due to what can only be described as global recession.

In terms of academic definitions someone might argue that if the supply exceeds demand then you have a glut and therefore they feel completely vindicated in their model and assessment. But it doesn't tell the whole story. Not by a long-shot.

While a recession has not been officially acknowledged, although it is if you're listening, watching and reading, and perhaps while not yet fully represented in the statistics and indices, the truth is the global economy has never really picked up since the 2007-2008 crisis.

The markets have shot up largely due to speculation, manipulation through buy-backs, liquidation, lay-offs etc... Lack of credit has forced investors to look to other instruments to generate dividends. But of course a tight-credit market generates speculation and bubbles, the very thing that almost brought the system down nine years ago.

Oil is down, but the mining industry is on its knees. There are massive lay-offs and closures all over the world. Retail is suffering as is demonstrated by massive lay-offs and store closures. To ascribe the low price of oil to 'the market' and 'fracking' is a bit misleading.

In one sense all of this is 'the market' but it's a little bigger than just benefiting from 'getting the government out of the way'.

The glut is going to get worse as Iran starts to re-enter the market. There are those that will hope we'll see another 'boom' like we did in the eighties when the North Sea and Alaska opened up a new economic era for the West.

Or did it? Was the Reagan boom the result of genuine economic growth or an increase in corporate profits due to massive layoffs, deindustrialisation and a stock market bubble? Perhaps it was some of both. By the end of the 1980's the market had crashed and the US was in a recession. Even Bush's 'Gulf War' couldn't save his administration.

China's economy is experiencing instability but is China's present shakiness merely the result of the market? Do social tensions play a part? Would market purists say that governments shouldn't intervene even if it destablises geopolitics? Perhaps for some that's the actual goal.

Economics do not function in isolation from geopolitics. Economics are in the end viewed as strategic. Since so much of economic activity is subjective and based on perception it's in the government's interest to promote good feelings and optimism, even if it's not true. Statistics can be manipulated. Just look at the inflation rate. The Federal Reserve thinks it's too low. The middle and working classes are howling due to the increase of everything from automobiles to food and electric bills. Natural gas is indeed down. My bills are the lowest they've been in a decade. But my electric bill is at an all time high and still climbing. Next to my mortgage it is my highest bill.

I was shocked to discover I made more money last year than I've ever made before. Why am I shocked? We're always 'poor' by American standards but the last year seemed particularly tight and burdensome. We did nothing superfluous. We made more money and still couldn't pay the bills. Why? Inflation. It hurts.

Look at the unemployment rate. How many people no longer apply for unemployment benefits? How many people are 'underemployed' wishing they could work full time or that they could have just one full time job instead of 2-3 part-time jobs resulting in paltry money and scarcely a day off?

The theoretical does not reflect the actual. This is true in many fields to be sure but probably no more than in the realm of economics. It is in some ways a pseudo-science and easily subject to manipulation. This is not to say that it isn't useful but I pity those who think they can formulate and rely on axioms when it comes to this field. It has scientific aspects but those who treat it in isolation fall into immediate reductionism.

The present system which dominates our world and rules our institutions fears insurrection. The system is volatile and there are many factors putting it in jeopardy. The Internet is playing no small part in this.

It's ironic but globalisation rather than establish stability based on mutual dependency is actually leading to domestic strife, endless crisis and is contributing to serious geopolitical dangers. The potential collapse of the EU, tensions with Russia over geopolitics and energy, the scramble for resources in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa have created a very toxic situation. Many believe (as do I) that the present 'glut' is in no small part a tactical move on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia. The crushing of competition and the fomentation of instability in the Middle East serve their mutual interests. Low oil prices are proving effective as bombs when it comes to Venezuela, Russia and Syria.

In many ways the modern system which came into its own during the 1980's was predicated on Chinese growth and cheap labour. It's proven unsustainable as the 'business cycle' compounded by political and geopolitical concerns threatens to break the system as a whole.

China has been built up only to have the rug ripped out from beneath its feet. Whether the system collapses through the implosion of China, a regional or even global war, no one can predict. There are too many variables. The system may not 'collapse' but it's clear there is trouble on the horizon. It seems that many analysts, strategists and intellectuals feel this at the moment. There is trepidation and the global economy is grinding to a halt. The war drums are starting to beat for those who have ears to hear.

Ironically this 'freeze' may in the end be the catalyst that starts the reaction. While the 'domino theory' when applied to geopolitics came up short it's hard to escape the eventuality of a domino falling in the global economy. The problem is the way things are right now, it's not hard to imagine an eruption of war which could quickly get out of control.

Let's pray for the wicked men sitting in positions of power. Let's pray that God in His mercy facilitates their finding a way to avoid collapse.

Sadly the sustaining of the present order is in itself a grievous crime and will continue to lead to a lot of suffering and devastation.

There's no real answer to these problems. This is life post lapsum, life under the curse in a post-Edenic world.

It's simply a sad reality that the Capitalist system championed by so many who proclaim the name of Christ is not only carving a path of death and destruction but is also self-destructive. Like a cancer it eventually kills its host and thus itself.

The Libertarians will argue these problems have been aggravated by government meddling, regulation, subsidies and the like demonstrating once again the ivory tower naiveté of the movement and its failure to understand capitalism's dependency on the state and for internationalist (imperialist) countries the strategic nature of markets, industry and resources. Even multinationals, the system of globalisation as well as the nation state functioning within it needs courts, law enforcement, and ultimately armies.

The Libertarian view is minimalist and atomised, an ivory tower paradigm divorced from reality and possessing an anthropology which does not reflect the Scripture's understanding of man's sinful nature.

While agreements like the TPP seem to undermine the power of the nation state, in the end it actually weakens only the smaller and weaker countries. It's yet another tool of the powerful to control the weak. The Praetorians can employ the apparatus to check undesirable forces within their own governments as well. Some of this interpretation will depend on one's view of the global order. I do not subscribe to the 'total orchestration' view of many conspiracists. But I also reject the schizophrenic 'Keystone Cops' notion that many seem to have when it comes to viewing the nature of Western power.

I believe the events of history are highly manipulated but not orchestrated. And it's clear there are real dissensions and inner conflicts among the elites. They operate within an accepted paradigm and set of values to be sure but within those circles they can differ. Hilary Clinton and Chris Christie may differ and their differences are real. But, from the standpoint of someone in India, Nigeria, Paraguay or the Kingdom of Christ, those differences are miniscule. They represent the same Establishment and both work to defend its interests and expand its power. They simply disagree on whether one should first dot the 'i' or cross the 't'.

Small nations are faced with the great dilemma, the irresolvable problem and inherent contradiction of maintaining freedom and autonomy without inadvertently working at the same time to destroy it. The government must intervene (restrict freedoms) to protect society from internal disintegration and external threat and manipulation. But in the process of protecting society and culture it ends up transforming and ultimately destroying the very thing it was trying to preserve. If the government doesn't intervene in terms of protecting the status quo the same forces of change will eventually break and destroy the society and culture.

It's a truly endless dance. To be static and to insist on retaining a static model is to sign one's own death warrant. The Dynamic Principle is at work in all social, economic, political and geopolitical models. That's why none of them work. Models are largely unable to reflect the dynamism (this ever-changing world in which we live in) inherent in a world full of greed and lust, covetous hearts that will never rest content.

To be static is to allow external forces to enter into your society undermine and subvert it. The smaller, weaker nations and societies dream of being left alone, but it's like asking a baby not to cry, it's impossible. In order to retain liberty, simple and agrarian type societies must industrialise and arm but once they industrialise and arm they are no longer simple or agrarian.

In the industrial and technological age resource acquisition and trade become strategic and in many cases both potential and actual weapons of war.

The present geopolitical situation is both tenuous and perilous, a toxic and unstable environment. Economically it is reminiscent not only of what occurred in 2007 but the 1930's as a whole. Monsters emerge from such stormy seas.

Limbaugh can continue to emit his lies, fantasies and distortions but those that listen to him and his puerile commentaries and interpretations must be resigned to a state of ignorance. Today in this revived era of Know-Nothingism these qualities are celebrated.

Truly it can be said that the low price of oil is due to the market... is to say nothing at all. The market must first be defined and I guarantee that Limbaugh and/or the Libertarian models fail to grasp even a modicum of its titanic scope and multi-faceted complexity and interdependency.