Saturday, November 12, 2011

Raymond Learsy on Oil and Finance

OIL AND FINANCE is the title of Raymond J Learsy's second book, which has been published recently.

His first book was titled OVER A BARREL, published in 2007. In that book he set out how the US became addicted to oil, and why geopolitics makes that dependence dangerous. Exploring the social, economic, and political effects of oil discoveries on the major oil producing countries, he suggests an inverse relationship between the "oil countries" (my term), and their incredibly repressive regimes with consequently low rates of political participation, and slow development of a civil society, so that these countries are virtual time bombs waiting for revolution or the birth of the next bin Laden. That is because these countries have developed systems whereby a few at the top enjoy incredible wealth, while vast corruption and repression is the fate of most people. While the elite indulge in degenerate Western lifestyles at Monte Carlo, Geneva, London and New York, they finance Wahhabism as the opiate of the masses in order to forestall modernity and keep their populations locked in feudalism. Having sold our collective soul to such dislikable and unsustainable regimes, we are stuck with the unpleasant fact that part of the profit from every gallon of petrol one buys is likely to end up helping to finance some extremist group or the other. Learsy concludes by proposing solutions including: renewing a focus on nuclear power, busting OPEC, taxing big oil’s profits, and investing in bio-fuels and other alternative forms of energy.

In his second book, Learsy brings together his blog entries from The Huffington Post over the period 2006 to 2010, organised chronologically under headings that reflect the concerns of his first book.

The first section is "Enemies Foreign" - in which the culprits, are, principally, OPEC in general, but specifically the Saudis and the Russians, as well as the US elite which has found its way to entrenching its interests in the country's political system.

The second section therefore turns to "Enemies Domestic", excoriating policymakers and the big oil companies, attacking the proponents of Peak Oil as the witting or unwitting agents of Big Oil, and relating all this to the current global financial and economic crisis.

In the third section "How we can fight back", he argues for the right use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, pleads for us to reduce our consumption of oil, and encourages us to invest in alternative energy production (including nuclear).

The book's "real-time commentaries" on the events of the last five years are a useful record. Chronicling "the corruption of a commodity that is essential to the world's economic well-being", Learsy asks us to wake up to what lies ahead as other "core commodities" such as food products are subjected to "political, monopoly, marketing and financial manipulation". He is clear that prices are manipulated through "glaring speculation on our trading exchanges", through "the lack of oversight by our regulatory agencies; and the abject opportunism of our financial sector, especially of large banks abetting and grossly profiting from rising oil prices much to the detriment of households struggling with escalating heating bills and gasoline costs".

Americans, particularly, will be interested to know that he is most concerned by "what has become... the greatest threat to our nation and to the world - the transfer of literally trillions of dollars ... to oil interests and terror-sponsoring despots (who) have helped to destabilize today's world, lubricating the clash of civilizations and ... radicaliz(ing) the young and vulnerable in all corners of the globe with the destructive ethos of jihad and intolerance".

Altogether, OIL AND FINANCE documents and condemns the continuation of a system "that is barely functioning, responsive not to the general weal nor to the basic economic laws of supply and demand but rather to the influence, lucre and access of the few and their special interests".

Observing that President Obama, having promised to change things, has been no more effective in bringing the oil lobby to heel than was President Bush, Learsy raises a chilling question on the last page of this book: "Could it be that corruption and complacency are now too deeply entrenched to be reversed?"

In fact, corruption and complacency can be reversed, as I have argued through the example of the work of William Wilberforce and other reformers who were fighting corruption and complacency that were much more deeply entrenched in their own societies, which had the additional disadvantage, from the reformers' point of view, of being more like today's "oil countries" than like today's democracies. However, cultural transformation does take huge cultural and spiritual resources, as is documented in Vishal Mangalwadi's THE BOOK THAT MADE YOUR WORLD. Certainly, books such as this one, analysing the malaise will not be enough. It will require today's cultural gatekeepers in the US and Europe to accept the kind of resources Mangalwadi documents if corruption and complacency are going to be fought once again in our modern world. Sphere: Related Content

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