Are YOU propping up a tyrant?
By Amy Willis
EconTalk host Russ Roberts showed us a very personal challenge this week…As a self-professed hard-core free-trader, this week’s guest Leif Wenar had Russ re-examining some of his views. I know this episode had quite the same effect on me…So what about you?
If we care about the oppression of people living in oppressive regimes rich with oil, what should we do? Or more precisely, what can we do that would help the people we’re hoping to help? Can we escape the “blood oil” ties to tyrannical regimes through government action? Is there a way to avoid blood oil using a bottom-up strategy?
1. How is the Oil Curse different from the Resource Curse we’ve long heard about, or what makes oil a special case, according to Wenar?
2. To what extent is the legislation Wenar advocates to combat blood oil just another form of “fair trade“? (Revisit this 2013 episode with Amrita Narlika to explore the differences between free trade and fair trade.)3. Russ credits Wenar with employing a “clever rhetorical device” in dubbing the oil trade as anti-market. How does Wenar justify this claim, and to what extent is Roberts persuaded by it? To what extent are you persuaded by it?
4. How effective do you think Wenar’s proposed legislative solution to the problem of “blood oil” could be? Put another way, how can not trading with oppressive regimes help the citizens of these regimes?
5. Roberts suggested a possible bottom-up approach to the Blood Oil problem? Could an oil company get a significant competitive edge by pledging to avoid oil from repressive regimes? Can you think of an analogous case where firms changed behavior to curry favor with consumers that succeeded?