Dont bet on it yet. The French government has caved, pledging help for those who have the power to choke off the economy by blocking oil refineries or road junctions. Tony Blair has promised nothing, but watch his budget speech in November for the tacit deal he has probably struck with his rebellious hauliers. German chancellor Schràder will surely unveil something soon--perhaps relief for heating oil or gas vouchers for the poorer folks, the SPD's traditional clientele.

Nor should this come as a surprise. The cost of fuel is the "bread price" of the 21st century. Let it soar, and the people will riot, just as they did in the 18th century when they were famously told by Marie-Antoinette: "Let them eat cake." The lady ultimately paid with her head for this quip; democratic governments face not just one, but two threats to their health.

One is the enormous vulnerability of the modern "flow economy." Block the strategic nodes, and you block everything else: critical supplies, people driving to work, indeed, the very ability of a nation to feed itself. And you don't need to rouse the whole people, a thousand trucks will do.

The second problem is that today's elected rulers are not like Louis XIV. You don't have to unleash a revolution to place them on the guillotine. For Tony, Gerd et al. it is death by ballot. Hence, the vulnerability of our monarchs who reign not by the grace of God, but by the consent of the people. And they are the real bosses. High prices for oil will not go away soon because the fundamental imbalance between demand and supply is here to stay.

So watch our leaders as they hold up the principle while sinning against it in practice. Watch for strategically placed goodies to those who matter: their core voters and the folks who are in control of the choke points.