The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations

By Michael L. Ross | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Good News and Bad News about Oil

Of all those expensive and uncertain projects, however, which
bring bankruptcy upon the greater part of the people who
engage in them, there is none perhaps more ruinous than
the search after new silver and gold mines.… They are the
projects, therefore, to which of all others a prudent law-giver,
who desired to increase the capital of his nation, would least
choose to give any extraordinary encouragement.

—Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

THIS BOOK analyzes half a century of data to produce a broad account of the politics and economics of oil wealth. It finds little evidence for some of the more dire claims in the resource curse literature: that extracting oil slows down a country’s economic growth, or makes governments weaker or less effective.1 On some fronts, like reducing child mortality, the typical oil state has outpaced its non-oil neighbors.

Yet this book also shows that since they nationalized their oil industries in the 1970s, oil-producing countries in the developing world have suffered from a series of political ailments: compared to similar states without oil, their governments have been less democratic and more secretive; their economies have provided women with fewer jobs and less political influence; and they have been more frequently marked by violent insurgencies. They suffer from a more subtle kind of economic malady as well. While they have grown at about the same rate as other countries, they should have grown faster, but were slowed down by at least two factors: their failure to provide more economic opportunities for women, which has led to unusually fast population growth; and their failure to prudently manage the volume and volatility of their oil revenues—not because their governments are uncommonly weak, but rather because the task is uncommonly arduous.

Before asking how to reverse these syndromes, let me step back and consider some of their broader implications.

1 As I noted earlier in the book, mea culpa: some of my own previous studies supported several of these claims.

-223-

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The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Country Abbreviations xix
  • Chapter One - The Paradoxical Wealth of Nations 1
  • Chapter Two - The Trouble with Oil Revenues 27
  • Chapter Three - More Petroleum, Less Democracy 63
  • Chapter Four - Petroleum Perpetuates Patriarchy 111
  • Chapter Five - Oil-Based Violence 145
  • Chapter Six - Oil, Economic Growth, and Political Institutions 189
  • Chapter Seven - Good News and Bad News about Oil 223
  • References 255
  • Index 281
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