Thursday, December 10, 2015

The End of Neoliberalism and the House of Saud? Some Hopeful Signs

"If It Owns a Well or a Mine, It’s Probably in Trouble," by Clifford Krauss and Ian Austen is worth reading:
“The world of commodities has been turned upside down,” said Daniel Yergin, the energy historian and vice chairman of IHS, a consultant firm. “Instead of tight supply and strong demand, we have tepid demand and oversupply and overcapacity for commodity production. It’s the end of an era that is not going to come back soon.” 
The pressure on prices has been significant.

Prices for iron ore, the crucial steelmaking ingredient, have fallen by about 40 percent this year. The Brent crude oil benchmark is now hovering around $40 a barrel, down from more than a $110 since the summer of 2014.
What caught my eye was the tail end of the quote from Establishment analyst Yergin, "It's the end of an era that is not going to come back soon." And what era would that be? Depending on how one looks at it, Yergin could be talking about neoliberalism. Having recently read Varoufakis' The Global Minotaur, I am inclined to agree with the Greek economist that the era of neoliberalism, what Varoufakis names the "Global Minotaur," began when the Nixon administration removed the dollar from its gold peg and let it float freely against other currencies. The result was a sharp increase in commodity prices.

Later on in the Krauss/Austen piece there is this gem:
Others are facing a period of prolonged problems. 
Some energy experts are even beginning to express concerns that sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Persian Gulf and oil-producing countries will redeem their money from investment firms in the coming year to shore up their balance sheets. If they do, the moves could initiate more instability in global equity and debt markets.

Some good news to report locally. In November I mentioned in "Election Day: Emerging Class Consciousness in West Coast Tech Cities":
Locally the race to watch is in District 1. If Lisa Herbold can defeat Shannon Braddock, surmounting the largest independent expenditure campaign in the history of Seattle, we can pronounce with some certainty that there is blossoming old-school "Which Side Are You On?" class consciousness in one the West Coast tech hubs.
After a recount was completed this week, Herbold was officially declared the winner, overcoming a six-point election-night deficit. As she said in an email to her supporters yesterday,
Of course early in the campaign these values became an even bigger focus because an Independent Expenditure (IE) campaign made a record-busting investment against me. Their donations were not subject to financial limits like our donations are. This District 1 $230,000 IE was more than all IEs combined in citywide Council races in the last 3 election cycles combined. 
But maybe now we can ensure that the influence of IEs will not become the new "politics as usual. It's not everyday that a candidate outspent 3-1 wins her election. Hasn't this election proven to us that if we continue to work together like we have over the last 10 months we can make sure that all voices are represented and that we can challenge those who would maintain the status quo?
Developers tried to take out Herbold because they fear she will work to enact rent control citywide. "Change we can believe in" seems to be coming our way.

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