Some Remarks on Oil
A great deal has been said concerning the loss of life and human suffering that has resulted from the Persian Gulf Crisis and the many times greater loss that will result if the Crisis escalates into armed conflict between Iraq and those arrayed against her. Much has been said about national sovereignty and political self-determination too. I do not avoid these subjects because I am unconcerned about them but, rather, because my subject is – oil.
Probably we should not be burning fossil fuels because of (1) air pollution and possible greenhouse effects, (2) scarcity, and (3) our responsibility to posterity.
If we do elect to consume oil reserves, we must do it sparingly and in such a way as to benefit all of humanity equally.
Clearly, if unequal rewards are not due people because of accidents of birth, they are not due people because of the accidental settlement of their tribe over a particular portion of the earth's surface.
American and other troops are in the Middle East to protect the interests of capitalists. Capitalism requires an infinite supply of raw materials, including high-grade energy reserves, and constantly expanding markets for three reasons that I can think of: (1) To provide for the children of capitalists. (2) To provide opportunities for ambitious members of other classes to enter the capitalist class so as to perpetuate the Horatio Alger myth. (Some naive people believe that, because anyone can become rich, everyone can become rich, or, at least, has a decent chance to succeed. Actually, nearly everyone fails.) (3) Large enterprises enjoy a competitive advantage over small enterprises (unless a small enterprise has an absolute global monopoly), if for no other reason, because of their enhanced ability to manipulate the system unfairly. Thus, each enterprise strives to become bigger if only to stay even with its competitors.
Capitalists have an "interest" in the Middle East to maintain at least a modicum of control over the oil through their protectorates, puppets, and partners, even though that control be only the guaranteed opportunity to buy oil at a price close to the cost of getting it out of the ground, depending on the vagaries of the market. The price of oil never accounts for the work done by nature.
While it is true, in view of our past mistakes (in energy policy and other aspects of our religious neglect of social and economic planning), that the loss of the oil, or the sudden dramatic rise in the price of oil, could cause suffering among many American workers, the flow of oil or the price of oil probably will not be determined by who controls it but, rather, by market forces. Probably the American buildup affected the price as much as did the Iraqi invasion. If we set fire to the oil fields, then watch what happens to the price of oil.
We should develop alternative energy sources and reduce the total energy we consume to avoid further catastrophic thermal and motion pollution. Amazingly, I can prove that this can be done only by rejecting market systems, capitalism, business, competition for wealth and power, and the institution of money itself. We must embrace decentralized economic planning and the age-old doctrine of performing a task for the benefit we get from performing the task rather than what else we think we can get out of it, i.e., art (or work) for the sake of art (or work), referred to in the scientific literature as intrinsic motivation. I can show that this will eliminate war, poverty, authoritarianism, and other social evils.
I wish that religious people would have preached against competition for wealth and power early on instead of praying for peace now that the forces of evil that they have been supporting (in the form of so-called free-enterprise capitalism) have run their natural course.
Talk delivered at the University of Houston
January 15, 1991