PRICE WARS - Act Now to Stop a Decade of Disorder
In The Guardian, I outline the cresting wave of commodity-driven chaos, and what we can do to stop it.
Once again, the commodity markets are unleashing a tsunami of suffering. Food prices are already past their previous peak that caused the Global Food Crisis of 2008, which pushed 155 million people into extreme poverty. Understandably, comparisons are being made to the oil shocks of the 1970s. But, as I argue in my Guardian piece,
… the “shock” metaphor is deceptive. This is not a momentary blast; all the warning signs point to the fact that this could turn into an avalanche. If that happens, we are just at the beginning of a decade-long deluge.
Both the “shocks” of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and the 2010 food price spike triggered avalanches of chaos that unfolded year after year.
The 1970s saw an surging oil prices, global stagflation, a Wall Street lending bonanza, the ‘Third World Debt Crisis’, food riots, and the overthrowing of governments, including Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, Tunisia, Sudan and many others. The 2010s saw surging food prices, the Arab Spring, bloody civil wars, the global refugee crisis, Brexit & Trump, the collapse of Venezuela, the war in Ukraine, and the US border crisis. As I detail in my Guardian piece - and in depth in the book - these events were all connected through commodity prices. Chaos in the real world and chaos in the markets fed off each other.
It is precisely this dynamic that propelled the war in Ukraine, both 2014 and 2022, as I discussed with The Intercept’s DC Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim, on his podcast, Deconstructed.
But this year does not need to be the beginning of the third avalanche. Prices are, after all, human inventions. Their destructive powers can be constrained, provided there is the political will to do so. There is, after all, no global shortage of wheat. The US and China alone sit on gargantuan reserves.
The horrors that the last cascade unleashed cannot be overstated. I saw in Mosul for myself the dark forces that the previous global food price spike empowered. I took the photograph below of the building that, before it was destroyed, ISIS used to execute those ‘accused of being gay’. They would be taken to the roof at noon, tied to chairs, and then throw off to the deaths.
It goes without saying that the international community should be doing everything in its power to ensure global stability. To keep the lid firmly sealed on the Pandora’s box of monsters that a shock of instability would inevitably pry open.