The dictionary definition of crucible is “an extremely difficult experience or situation; a severe test or trial”. This is precisely where most of Latin America finds itself with its excessive dependence on commodities as the linchpin of its economy. In good times governments spend commodity windfalls on projects or programs to garner support for the political party in power. In bad times, politicians engage in handwringing and scapegoating, and the governing party borrows excessively to make up the shortfall in revenue from commodity sales.
In ancient Hebrew and Arabic, the words for war and peace derive from the words for salt and bread. It is well known salt was incredibly important in the pre-modern world. Roman soldiers jealously guarded the salt fields near Palestine and controlled the caravan routes that brought this commodity westward. In fact, Roman soldiers were partially paid in salt which is where we get the word ‘soldier’ from the Latin sal dare (to give salt) and the word ‘salary.’ In the Middle Ages, nations such as England built their foreign policies around the imperative of securing southern sea-salt supplies. The phrase “to be worth one’s salt” and the compliment “salt of the earth” arose out of the high value of salt.
Of course in modern times, though it is still incredibly important, salt is substantially cheaper because of its abundant supply. My question is:What commodity today has such importance and high value in day to day life? There is an obvious answer. But there is also another resource that may be in short supply sooner than we think that could drastically affect the global economy…Comment with your guesses and thoughts!