Thursday, May 24, 2012
Post #274 - Time Used to Be Money ~ Now, It's Oil
This appeared on RIA-Novosti today and was written by Sam Barden. It is an interesting take on evolving economic systems and has a bearing on the situation vis-a-vis Iran:
There is a war raging inside the US State Department now, between those who back the Real (Energy) Economy and those who back the Financial (Dollar) Economy. In the course of my strategic advisory work at Wimpole International, I ran headlong into this war. In the 20th century Dollar Economy, we use currency created by banks as our unit of account, in this case the USD. People make investment decisions “for profit” on the basis of the least dollar cost per unit of production… this is the Dollar Economy, which we take for granted. However, the emerging 21st century Energy Economy is very different. When we use an absolute unit of energy as the unit of account, or energy standard, we make a very different value judgement based upon the least energy cost per unit of production. In the Energy Economy, we naturally gravitate to the most efficient use of energy.
We can also see the battle between Dollar Economics and Energy Economics as Conflict Economics versus Consensus Economics. Dollar Economics, by its very nature, is adversarial because all currencies compete in price against the national currency issued and controlled by the United States. As the world’s reserve currency, the USD is also the world’s price benchmark, backed up by the overwhelming power of the greatest military might the world has ever seen. On the other hand, Energy Economics is about consent, and the fact that a unit of energy is neutral, objective, and independent of all nations. When we use an energy unit as the basis for price, then, consumers immediately seek energy savings, using new technology, new ways of working, and even new ways of living. What we don’t value, we waste… whilst energy producing-nations like Saudi Arabia waste energy on a cosmic scale, countries like Denmark with minimal energy resources can be the most ingenious in conserving it. Nevertheless, in truth, we’re all in the same boat. In fact, producers and consumers have a common interest in working together to make the most efficient use of the crucial resource of energy. The problem is that the middlemen who own and control the financial system and markets have a vested interest in volatility… for them, price stability is death, and transparency is the enemy of profit.
Those in the State Department who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy are fighting a losing battle. The cracks appearing in the US banking giant JP Morgan Chase appear ominous for the US banking system. Indeed, whilst JP Morgan Chase is too big to fail, it’s definitely not too big to nationalise. As the black hole at the dark heart of J P Morgan Chase’s balance sheet gets bigger, the Obama Administration may have no choice but to nationalise the bank, and, then, slowly unwind and sell off its constituent parts. As if J P Morgan Chase’s fragility doesn’t put the global financial economy under enough stress, Europe’s imploding day by day, with Greece leading the race to the exit. Greek banks are already having serious liquidity problems, and Spain is not far behind them. With a new French government calling for less austerity not more, those who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy have lost the battle, and are about to lose the war.
This brings me to the sanctions on Iran, which the pundits tell us are the last chance to avoid war. In coming days, the 5 + 1 World Powers and Iran will assemble in Baghdad to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme. At the heart of these discussions are the physical and financial sanctions on Iran. The financial sanction scheme has led to an intra-State Department war. Whilst many believe that the US sanctions on Iran relate only to US companies, meaning that US companies can’t do business with Iran, actually, they go much further. For the Dollar Economists at the State Department, who do the banks’ bidding and who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy, it’s a simple calculation… “You’re either with us or against us”. Therefore, India, Japan, and South Korea have all recently come under physical sanction pressure to reduce or altogether cease buying Iranian oil and if they do not, then US financial institutions may cease to do business with them. Unless foreign institutions cease to deal with Iran, the flow of US dollar loans will cease, and US shareholders will pull out their investment, collapsing their share price. This is… as any Godfather would say… an offer they can’t refuse.
However, the cost of keeping the Financial Economy alive is now so great, and income and wealth inequality so pervasive, that the Real Economy has been suffocated. The Arab Spring and street protests around the world… like Occupy Wall Street… are the manifestations of this reality. Austerity has become unbearable. So it is with sanctions. The effect of financial sanctions on multinational companies operating in the Real-World Economy have led to part of the State Department becoming an arm of the banking system, effectively declaring war on another part of the State Department, which is responsible for keeping the lights on. This very secret war at the State Department is concluding, and there can only be one winner. At the end of the day, the Fed can’t print oil, and I believe we will see the pragmatic realists in the State Department backing the global transition to an Energy Standard.
The 20th century State Department is dead! Long live the 21st century State Department!