Thursday, November 25, 2004

Cheap oil and American politics

From an analysis of the American election by Stirling Newberry (I've fixed a bit of the spelling):

"The campaign hinged on this - the Swift Boats and marriage attacks were not distractions, but encapsulations of two simple points. The first was a way of saying that Kerry would betray the military, and therefore he would cut the military to balance the budget. Simple terms: make the cost fall on someone else. The second was a way of saying that the social changes that come with a high production, high value added economy - namely a cosmopolitan society - would happen under Kerry.

That is Kerry was presented, accurately, as being a threat to the social and economic hierarchy to the land owning classes. Land, which holds its value through having cheap gasoline, demands a military machine to obtain the oil and to maintain the social inequality should it come to that. Kerry was, accurately, presented as someone who would not go to war for oil.

If one looks at the map - the division - between the large blocks of the country whose value is sunk into rent and the smaller city areas that generate value through capital - is clear.

This social structure - paralleling the ancien regime of France is based on two alliances. The oligarchic rich place their faith in Church and State, they ally with the landowning peasants that stock the army, against the tradesman and the very bottom day laborers. The hierarchical society tries to tax by forced savings the tradesmen, and keep the 'rabble' in line with force. The hierarchy is not a mere marriage of convenience - each knows that it needs the other. The reactionary side of the ledger is not cleavable between 'economic and social conservatives' - because the wealthy knows it needs a military, and the military knows it needs someone to batter the rising professional classes into line."


and:

". . . land value is supported by cheap oil. One 'wins' the land rush by going farther out than other people, building on cheap land, and hoping enough people follow you to make prices spike through the roof. This means burning more oil.

But oil is in shorter and shorter supply - we are, therefore, burning oil to support land prices. There is an economic civil war, and the Saudis are selling both sides the ammunition. This means that the problem is that the relative land/oil price in the US is out of balance - people burn oil to pay less for land.

The oil burning classes voted for 'do what you have to do to take the oil' - which means cannibalizing the rest of society to keep the oil flowing."


So the rural land-owning class who need cheap oil to support the value of their isolated landholdings formed an alliance of convenience with the plutocrats who sell oil. 'Values' was a smokescreen for sheer economic self-interest. Both groups are nuts for violent militaristic colonialism to ensure there is enough oil to buy, and to sell. The whole analysis, which has a tinge of what you'd read in Wired magazine circa 1998, is nevertheless interesting. If true, there is no hope for the Democrats until the oil runs out, and the ensuing revolution destroys the Republican Party.

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