The World For Sale by Javier Blas

The World for Sale

The World For Sale is a book that sheds light on the power and influence of a small number of commodity trading houses in the global market.

The authors, who have covered natural resources for over two decades, reveal how these traders have become indispensable cogs in international trade, connecting resource-rich countries with the world’s financial centers, regardless of their corrupt or war-torn state.

The book narrates the rise of the world’s top oil, food, and metal trading houses, explaining how they have enabled an enormous expansion in international trade.

The book also highlights the political power of these commodity traders, who control the flow of the world’s strategic resources, making them powerful political actors.

The authors argue that their influence is not limited to the economy, as they have engineered changes in government policy and allegedly influenced governments for their own interests. Moreover, the book reveals tales of corruption and misdeeds, which investors are often unwittingly involved in.

The World For Sale also discusses the slow reform of the commodity trading business, which still relies heavily on commodities that pollute the environment. The authors decry that consumers increasingly care about traceability and ethical sourcing of their products, which together with other headwinds, including the democratisation of information and the reversal of globalisation, are cramping the traders’ style.

Useful takeaways:

  • A handful of commodity trading houses handle a large share of the world’s traded resources.
  • These traders have become powerful political actors, controlling the flow of the world’s strategic resources.
  • Corruption and misdeeds are prevalent in the commodity trading business, and investors are often unwittingly involved.
  • The commodity trading business still relies heavily on commodities that pollute the environment, and consumers increasingly care about traceability and ethical sourcing of their products.

What I Liked

I loved, loved, loved this book. All 8 billion of us (and especially the ~2 billion in developed countries) take our access to natural resources completely for granted. We have zero idea exactly how our gas goes into our car, our food ends up at the grocery store, and our electricity ends up in our home’s circuit.

Like, oil must physically come out of the ground and physically be moved across landscapes through processes to our gas station. Same for wheat, meat, etc. This book gets into the nitty gritty detail on how all that happens. It’s mind-blowing.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing – it’s fabulously written with jaw-dropping anecdotes.

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