22 February 2011

Revolution and the Resource Curse in the Middle East

Chris Blattman quotes Arvind Subramanian (writing in the FT)
Even if the people of Libya and Bahrain join those of Egypt and Tunisia in overcoming their cursed political systems, the economic manifestations of their rent curses will remain.
The case for the resource curse certainly sounds persuasive, but I just don’t think the evidence is really there any more, with more and more recent studies debunking it. As Charles Kenny writes in Foreign Policy,
The curse is the type of counterintuitive idea that makes for a great newspaper op-ed. Nonetheless, the curse is also the kind of counterintuitive idea where intuition may have been right to begin with.
To the extent that it does exist, the curse is not destiny, and movement towards more open societies is the best way of fighting it.

Hold tight Bahrain, hold tight Libya.

UPDATE: I found the link to some of the main research disputing the claims


Ranil Dissanayake said...

While I commend the movement towards more open societies, is it at all clear that this will be the outcome in Libya? There have been 41 years of Gaddafi, and there are no other sources of power apart from a number of relatively evenly-matched tribes. I'm extremely skeptical that the outcome of this particular movement will be anything like a well-functioning democracy.

Not to say that I'm hoping Muammar holds on, just that I won't throw my hat in the air with joy yet. I think this is the beginning of a very long and shitty struggle for Libya.

Xavier Marquez said...

There is more to this: Thad Dunning's book "Crude Democracy" suggests that the resource course will tend to hold more in the middle East than in other countries, but less in other countries (like Venezuela); the total effect may be indeterminate. I reviewed it a while ago (http://abandonedfootnotes.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-oil-bad-for-democracy-footnote-on.html).

Lee said...

Does he say anything about the state of governance when countries found oil? Is it plausible that Venezuela had better governance to begin with?

Xavier Marquez said...

If anything Venezuela had worse government than some other places with oil. The argument has more to do with how oil mitigates or exacerbates other forms of class conflict; in Venezuela's case, it mitigated class conflict, which helped democracy, but did not necessarily help the quality of Venezuela's government.

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