Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A "terrorist" from a different view

Ok, so I ranted for a few moments the other day about whining about oil and gas prices and how the REAL solution is to buy stock in Exxon/Mobil rather than capping earnings with some stupid windfall tax (or, if you prefer, nationalizing the company).  The beauty of our economic system (that SOME politicians would prefer to undo) is that profits from companies filter to the owners of those companies either through dividends or valuation.  In the case of publicly traded companies, every single one of us has the opportunity to take part in that success (or failure, as the case may be).

Consider the alternative.  That would be a nationalized company like… say…  Mexico’s oil and gas company that is larger than Exxon by several degrees, but isn’t NEARLY as profitable.  Why isn’t it as profitable?  There’s no profit motive.  The CEO of the company is a political appointee and his job is to ensure the maximum amount of cash goes back to the government (and/or his friends) with the minimum amount of payout.  Big capital outlays cost money that otherwise would be available to line his pockets and bank accounts.  The people of Nigeria don’t see a dime of their national resources—those funds go  straight back to the government that pisses the funds away on ruby encrusted mop buckets and guitars that are, like, double guitars (Simpson’s reference, bonus points if you know the episode).  Meanwhile, over here the owners of Exxon, that is, you and me and whomever else owns a large-cap mutual fund, experience the growth and success of the company (and, yes, if you own a large-cap mutual fund you are very, VERY likely to be an owner of Exxon/Mobile stock).

But back in Nigeria where the folks have no access to the profits of the national company it’s a different story.  You have situations where people who need fuel oil, or gas, or a little extra money, (or a stream of contraband funds to provide for a nascent militia force), will drive up to a pipeline and cut a hole in the side and install a valve.  From that valve they’ll fill up a tanker, seal the valve, then drive off to make $120 a barrel on their new-found resources.

The problem is that the valve won’t always be installed properly and it’ll leak, flow downhill, and eventually find an open flame.  We see “TERRORISTS BLOW UP SECTION OF PIPELINE IN NIGERIA”, when in actuality the story is more like “LEAK FROM VALVE IN SIDE OF PIPELINE CAUSES EXPLOSION”.

Of course, that’s not to say that EVERY explosion in a pipeline in Nigeria is a mere accident, but it is most certainly saying that EVERY explosion on a pipeline in Nigeria is not caused by some naer-do-wells hell bent on causing havoc for the pure joy of causing havoc.  Sure, sometimes a turd blows up a pipeline just for the sake of blowing up a pipeline.  But sometimes it’s just someone stealing bread because they don’t have money to feed their family.


Thank God we live in a place where we have the opportunity to share in the success of companies that are doing it right.  And maybe pray to the same that we don’t get stupid and elect someone who would undo that.


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