Speculators and other capitalist running dogs by mattsteinglass
May 12, 2008, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Economics, Oddities

In the LA Times article the other day reporting that “jingle mail” may be an urban myth, it was noted that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been saying some mean things recently about “speculators”.

A few weeks earlier, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson had waggled a stern finger at homeowners contemplating walking away from affordable mortgages: Do that, and you’re no better than a “speculator,” he said.

Then Paul Krugman noted in his op-ed today that lately conservatives have taken to blaming “speculators” for the high price of oil.

Traditionally, denunciations of speculators come from the left of the political spectrum. In the case of oil prices, however, the most vociferous proponents of the view that it’s all the speculators’ fault have been conservatives — people whom you wouldn’t normally expect to see warning about the nefarious activities of investment banks and hedge funds.

And as if these little murmurs from some minor far-off country like the US weren’t enough, even here at the center of the world economy in Hanoi, we’ve been hearing from the government that the reason for rising rice prices is “speculators”. Indeed, the government has been threatening to invoke anti-hoarding laws against anyone caught trying to make money by stockpiling rice.

It’s true — you expect to hear this kind of thinking from people with a vestigial Marxist orientation. But you really don’t expect to hear it from laissez-faire conservatives like Steve Forbes, who would usually be defending to the death their right to make billions off of speculating on whatever commodity or financial instrument they please. So what’s going on?

Krugman says it’s the triumph of wishful thinking over ideology. I think there’s also a purely political element – with Republicans having been in control of everything under the sun for the past 8 years, there simply has to be somebody else around to blame for any negative developments. And of course there’s the purely insane imbrication of right-wing political sympathies in the US with the oil industry, which is going into feverish denial symptoms over the fact that you can’t drill a hole in the time-space continuum and have infinite quantities of oil shoot out.

Anyway, just seems like a funny development in the field of political discourse that’s worth noting.


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