community Service means Business!

14 May 2008

Is it patronizing theft to buy natural resources?


Leif Wenar says yes:

You very likely own stolen goods. The gas in your car, the circuits in your cell phone, the diamond in your ring, the chemicals in your lipstick or shaving cream — even the plastic in your computer may be the product of theft. Americans buy huge quantities of goods every day that are literally stolen from some of the world's poorest people.

...The very worst countries — the "sevens" — are places like Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Taking these very worst countries as the places where the people could not possibly be authorizing the dictators and civil warriors to sell off their country's resources, we can measure the amounts of stolen resources that enter America each year. By these official U.S. criteria over 600 million barrels of oil–more than one barrel in eight — have been taken illegitimately from their countries of origin. Stolen oil may be in your car's gas tank right now. Stolen oil might have been used to make the computer mouse in your hand.

That's Leif Wenar, here is more.  He proposes suing Exxon to create a chain reaction, thereby lowering the value of dictatorial seizures of natural resources and perhaps preventing them.  I'm sure the Chinese are on board.  But no -- read further: we must sue them too.  After all, their cheap toys are made with stolen oil.

Marginal Revolution 5/14/08 11:34 AM Tyler Cowen philosophy

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