May 12, 2008 11:46AM

Can the Resource Curse Be Lifted?

Cato Unbound’s May edition discusses the resource curse. Numerous studies confirm that countries rich in natural resources tend to be poor in property rights, individual liberty, and the rule of law. Is this just a deep, and deeply depressing, feature of the world we live in? Or can wealthier countries (which make up the market for most of these resources) and international institutions somehow intervene to alleviate or even lift the resource curse?

Philosopher Leif Wenar opens up the discussion by charging that you — yes you — are almost certainly the recipient of stolen goods, resources that clearly shouldn’t have belonged to the dictators who first sold them. Wenar then offers a simple but provocative solution to the resource curse, one that will hold kleptocracies responsible for their thefts.

The discussion will feature Cato senior fellow Andrei Illarionov, the former chief economic advisor to Vladimir Putin; journalist and historian John Ghazvinian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil; and Washington University political philosopher Christopher Wellman, an expert in matters of international justice. Could Wenar’s proposal succeed? What are the obstacles along the way? What else, if anything, can developed countries do to end the resource curse? Be sure to check out Cato Unbound throughout the week, as discussion develops over one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time.