A charitable group I follow is Coffee Kids, an organization that works in Latin America to improve education, health awareness, microcredit and food security in small coffee-farming communities. An item in the regular CK newsletter caught my interest because it relates to a broader subject of mounting concern. I quote from that item:
Lately it seems that coffee prices are steadily climbing. To really understand what’s happening, we have to understand the market, how prices are decided upon and how this affects those involved, especially those who are often overlooked—the coffee farmers.
…Coffee prices, and therefore coffee farmers’ income, are affected by a number of factors, such as world market prices, climatic issues, supply and demand, speculation, political unrest, transportation costs and a host of other often unpredictable variables. . .
One of the more recent and influential factors in the coffee market is speculation. Before the deregulation of the 1990s, speculation had a place in the commodities market. It was reigned in because classic laws of supply and demand still controlled market prices.
Then, as a result of the tireless efforts of banks, hedge funds and politicians, regulations were systematically discarded, leaving us with an all but imaginary market in food speculation, controlled by people who have little to do with agriculture…
John Vidal’s article in The Guardian succinctly explains the effect of speculation. It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the food market is now speculation…
Recently, a wave of investors has had a disproportionate influence on prices within many of the commodity trading markets. These speculators, who often have no commercial interest in the industries in which they invest . . are able to turn a profit on market movements in either direction. This takes markets outside of the realm of simple supply and demand and makes them much more unpredictable.
What we have then, are groups of farmers working to produce coffee for an extremely volatile market that is even more so today due to the intervention of speculators that may or may not have anything to do with the coffee trade. It becomes clear who benefits from the system and who is often left behind.
Historically, sudden price rises have been blamed on product shortages or unusual changes in consumption patterns. According to John Vidal at The Guardian:
A new theory is emerging among traders and economists. The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world.
We have become subject to an elite class of business manipulators who earn immense personal wealth while creating no national wealth. They care precisely nothing about creating tangible properties. They deal in primary securities and generations of near incomprehensible derivative instruments. They manipulate and manage, profiting whether prices go up or down. In the event of disaster, the finance industry is too big, too important to fail. Rescue plans bail out the biggest and richest investors, with the ordinary public protecting them from the risk of losses.
Public rage is the only force able to impose meaningful checks on pillaging manipulators and the corrupt institutional supporters and politicians who are the fundamental enablers of financial crimes. Yet the bodies that should focus and amplify citizen anger, the media and the justice system turn away, too dependent on political largess for their own comforts. American commentator Glenn Greenwald described the situation:
It’s a universal dynamic that elites want to keep the masses in a state of silent, disengaged submission, all the better if the masses stay convinced that the elites have their best interests at heart and their welfare is therefore advanced by allowing elites — the Experts — to work in peace on our pressing problems, undisrupted and “undistracted” by the need to placate primitive public sentiments.
While that framework is arguably reasonable where the establishment class is competent, honest, and restrained, what we have had — and have — is exactly the opposite: a political class and financial elite that is rotted to the core and running amok.
Keep these thoughts in mind when you see and hear radio, television and newspaper accounts telling you that all is well, there is no need for a BC Rail inquiry or an examination of tens of billions of privately produced electricity purchased with certain cost but uncertain value. Remember, the pundits say there are no burning questions to be asked.
Ian Reid did the Corus Radio transcription for last week. It reinforces much that I have written here before:
Vaughn Palmer started by asking a caller, “What would you ask a public inquiry? What questions would you ask?”
Keith Baldrey followed with the same thing. “What are the burning questions?”
And then Palmer elaborated on the theme ‘” lot of the questions I’ve seen so far Bill, are beside the point, or they draw on things, on allegations that the defence made in court that were never proven one way or another and no evidence…”
The three pundits strutted on their Friday stage but all they achieved was to demonstrate their critics are correct. Ian provided further proof.