Friday, March 14, 2008

Oil, Gold, Bubbles & Free Markets

Gold could go to $10,000 an ounce and the economic impact would hardly be felt by anyone, except those owning the commodity, of course.

Gold has some "use" value; but its attraction has always lied somewhere other than its functionality.

Oil, on the other hand, has traditionally only had "use" value. It's value comes from the many economic applications which oil contains, with most of us familiar and concerned with its use as a fuel, specifically gasoline.

Unlike the oil crises of the 1970s when lack of supply was blamed, either rightly or wrongly, for the increase in price, this time no such claims are even being floated by the oil producers. There are no lines at gas stations, no need to ration fuel on the odd/even license plate scheme of the '70s---in fact, there's plenty of oil on the market right now. Yet the price climbs...A somewhat paradoxical dynamic indeed.

Is oil (and maybe gold) takings its turn at being the Bubble du Jour?

Is the rise in oil prices--which trade and are paid for in dollars--merely a reflection of the decline in the value of the dollar vis a vis virtually all other significant currencies? I think the answer certainly is Yes, that the dollar's fall is playing a significant role in oil's price rise.

Oil's parabolic price rise, unlike gold's similar spike, has serious consequences for the world's advanced economies. They are too obvious to need enumeration. But it is those very consequences that, in a market system, could and should, prove to be the factors that rein in excesses.

It may take the current recession in the US to put a cap on the price rises in oil, and eventually force those prices back in line with the commodity's "use" value.

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