3 July 2009

Historians and social scientists often debate the role of individuals in shaping the course of history and society. I think individuals matter in history and society, and not all can be explained by non-personal systematic or structural forces: people make history, and people make up society. Unfortunately, we are never entirely sure about motivation behind people’s decisions. Psychology is at best a good indicator: so long as humans can be irrational and possess free will, I don’t think we can ever be sure what led people to do certain things.

We may not know the reasons or psychology of individuals’ decisions, but there are consequences from their decisions, which affect us all and which we can see. This holds true with the price of a basic commodity. In the case quoted above, there was a spike in the price of oil. A ‘rogue’ trader has, it seems, almost single-handedly managed to raise the price of oil by 2 dollars per barrel and trading in huge quantities. This may be a reminder that individuals do matter ...