Money Stuff

, on April 24, 2020

Matt Levine writes a fantastic finance column. It is not new by any stretch, but a recent column had a very well written intro:

On first principles it is not that surprising that the price of oil would be negative. I mean, look at it. It’s a viscous liquid. It smells bad. It is toxic. If you kept it in your garage, you might get sick, or you might get in trouble for storing pollutants improperly, or your garage might explode. If I walked up to you on the street and tried to give you a barrel of oil, you would naturally charge me for taking it off my hands. It is an all-around unpleasant substance.

But you can refine it into products that produce energy. So humanity got over the problems with oil long ago and, despite its unpleasantness, it has spent a century as the literal fuel of the world economy. It is gross bad stuff but we need it to drive cars and fly planes and move cargo and otherwise do all the things we like to do. Now we are not doing those things. The world economy is closed. Oil’s use value has collapsed. You are left with a viscous smelly toxic polluting inflammable useless ooze.


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