Rising fuel costs and the next Revolution

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
By Paul Martin

By: Clif Droke
Wednesday, 14 March 2012

“The economic and political importance of high food prices can’t be underestimated. To take one example, high food prices were the catalyst for last year’s outbreak of revolution in several Middle East countries. The region once known as the Fertile Crescent is heavily dependent on imported grain and rising fuel costs contributed to the skyrocketing food prices which provoked the Arab revolts. Annia Ciezadlo, in her article “Let Them Eat Bread” in the March 23, 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs wrote: “Of the top 20 wheat importers for 2010, almost half are Middle Eastern countries. The list reads like a playbook of toppled and teetering regimes: Egypt (1), Algeria (4), Iraq (7), Morocco (8), Yemen (13), Saudi Arabia (15), Libya (16), Tunisia (17).”

Indeed, high food costs have long been a major factor in fomenting popular revolt. The French Revolution of the late 1700s originated with a food shortage which caused a 90 percent increase in the bread price in 1789. Describing the build-up to the Reign of Terror in France of 1793-94, author Susan Kerr wrote: “For a time, local governments attempted to improve distribution channels and moderate soaring prices. Against this backdrop of rumbling stomachs and wailing hungry children, the excesses and arrogance of the nobility and clergy strutted in sharp contrast.”

This historical event has an obvious parallel in today’s emphasis on the elite “1 percent” versus the “99 percent.” The French government of the late 18th century attempted to assuage the pain caused by soaring food prices, but ultimately this effort failed. Although the U.S. government attempted for a time to keep fuel prices low, it has since abandoned all effort at stopping speculators from pushing prices ever higher.

An undercurrent of popular revolt is already present within the U.S. as evidenced by the emergence of the Tea Party and by last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement. This revolutionary sentiment has been temporarily suppressed by the simultaneous improvement in the retail economy and the financial market rebound of the past few months. The fact that this is a presidential election year, replete with the usual pump priming measures and underscored by the peaking 4-year cycle, has been an invaluable help in keeping revolutionary fervor suppressed for the moment. But what those within the government and financial establishment have failed to consider is that once the 4-year cycle peaks later this year, we enter the final “hard down” phase of the 120-year cycle to bottom in late 2014. This cycle is also known, in the words of Samuel J. Kress, as the “Revolutionary Cycle.””

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