At last! A silver lining on oil prices!

June 16, 2008, 4:42 PM UTC
Fortune



I was talking to my broker this morning and she said something interesting, once I could make it out. “I can’t hear you with all that background noise,” I said to her.

“It’s very windy out here on this ledge,” she replied.

I asked her to postpone her current operating plan for a few moments, at least, and there was a short silence while she climbed back inside and settled herself behind her desk. “So,” I said. “How’s it going?”

“I’ll tell you,” she said, after her initial shriek of insane laughter subsided. “I’ve been in this business for 25 years. I’ve seen ups and downs but I’ve never seen anything quite so volatile as this. It’s crazy.”

This made me nervous and I told her so. She then spent a few minutes reassuring me that my investment in spelt futures looked rock solid. “The State of New York, the City of New York and the Federal Government would have to fail in order to put you in jeopardy,” she said. What’s interesting is that this only made me feel marginally more secure. In the back of my mind, the collapse of our entire financial and sociological system, at this time, does not seem beyond the capacity to imagine. Still. It’s not happening today, I don’t think.

“In the end,” she concluded, “I think the stock market is going to come out just fine.” I listened for the sound of bubbling water in her hookah, but heard none. I voiced some doubt about her assessment. Her reply was somewhat unexpected to me, and I thought I would pass it along. True, she’s a broker. True, she works for a financial institution that wrote down the GNP of Australia this year so far. But she’s a smart person and doesn’t make any money if she misjudges the situation over a long period of time.

“We’re not going into a depression,” she said. “Yes, we’re in a very powerful recessionary cycle, but it will come to an end. And look at the bright side.”

“The bright side?” I haven’t really heard anybody mention that realm for quite some time.

“With fuel costs going through the roof, the cost of transportation of goods and people is becoming prohibitive. Instead of sending jobs to China, we’re going to be seeing a lot more jobs coming back here to the United States. The benefits from outsourcing to all corners of the world are disappearing. And that’s going to be good for our employment picture.”

I get that. When the world becomes a too-expensive place for corporations to operate, patriotism suddenly becomes good strategy again. And that’s good news for American workers. All we have to do is wait. We’re not too good at that as a nation, but I have a feeling it might not take too long. Which is reason for some optimism if, you know, we look on the bright side.