Friday, January 13, 2006


Thomas Friedman (or as Grist calls him, the "Mustache of Understanding") is back and thowing down some fat wisdom on the effects of "petrolism". Read the whole article. Good stuff, Maynard.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It’s petrolism.

Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one’s citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one’s enemies, and using oil profits to build up one’s internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power — without any transparency or checks and balances.

When a nation’s leaders can practice petrolism, they never have to tap their people’s energy and creativity; they simply have to tap an oil well. And therefore politics in a petrolist state is not about building a society or an educational system that maximizes its people’s ability to innovate, export and compete. It is simply about who controls the oil tap.

In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich by being in government and sucking the treasury dry — so they never want to cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.
I totally agree, and yet another reason for everyone to be cognizant of the ammount of oil they use, and do everything to reduce it. I think we need to rerun those "if you buy drugs you support terrorists" ads, and replace drugs with oil.
No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil — thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.
I was against this whole Iraq war thing from the beginning for this reason. If oil corrupts, then Iraq is the 2nd hardest place in the world to bring democracy (as it has the second highest proven oil reserves). With $100 billion a year in potential Iraqi oil money, that is a lot of reasons for Sunni insurgents to keep fighting for a larger share of the pie. I wonder how many people at the top of this insurgency, the ones who fund it, look at it as "venture terrorism". Idea being that you spend a couple million in funding the Islamic wackos to keep fighting, hoping that your investment pays of in higher oil revenues that flow to the Sunni region and you.

Via Kansas City Star (Really this is an NY Times $elect article, but they don't let the people view it for free. In fact I think they would throw the beat down on the Kansas City Star if they knew they were showing it for free. So lets keep this our little secret for now, ok?)

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