‘Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World’, by Leif Wenar

0397f58a-92d1-4829-9535-ee38e1989f23Tom Burgis at The Financial Times:

Alongside Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill and John Rawls (the author studied at Harvard with the latter, whose ideas on the primacy of justice inform the book), Wenar cites an African ruler who features in many a polemic against the oil business. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the embodiment of what theorists call the “resource curse”, the cruel law that condemns those born in the states richest in natural wealth to be among the most wretched of the earth.

Obiang seized power in 1979, since then Equatorial Guinea has been his fief. The stories of what goes on in Black Beach prison alone are enough to convey the hideousness of his rule. The fortune amassed by his son — who serves, if that is the right word, as vice-president of a nation where one in 10 children dies before the age of five — includes Michael Jackson’s crystal-encrusted glove and a fleet of luxury cars.

Wenar argues that Obiang, like his fellow kleptocrats, has no just right to dispose of his county’s natural wealth. He calculates that more than half of the world’s oil production cannot currently be exported without violating property rights because the people who live where that crude is pumped — and to whom it rightfully belongs — are too cowed to have any meaningful say in decisions about their national patrimony. That goes for other extractive commodities too, such as the diamonds that sustained Charles Taylor’s onslaught in Sierra Leone and Liberia. If we agree, then “international oil and mining companies are flying, trucking and sailing away billions of dollars of stolen wealth every day”.

more here.