If you’re still collecting evidence that a society built on extractive wealth is liable to moral pathology, put this one in your dossier. The Saudis are demanding that if we use less of their climate-toxic export, we should pay them (and the other oil-exporting countries) for what we don’t buy.
Let us pause in awe at the nerve of this idea. The citizens of Gulf oil states toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not coddled as one of these privileged lottery winners, swanning around the lobbies of ridiculous hotels and airconditioned shopping centers in spotless white dishdashis, never carrying anything bigger than a cellphone with which to check on the steady inflow of unearned money from a no-work government job, or his brokerage account, or the current price of his pied-a-terre in Mayfair. If something actually needs to be, like, done (cook dinner, build a hotel, look for oil, drill for oil, pump it) they hire expats from around the world and watch. What the government doesn’t pay its men for knowing nothing and doing nothing, it spends to abuse its women, and to spread ignorance, superstition, and savagery through the land and maybe some terror amid the overseas suckers who found, extract, refine, and buy the oil.
They have had more than half a century to accumulate wealth beyond the wildest imagination of people who work for a living, simply because they were struck by underground magic lightning where they happened to have pitched their tents. That wealth could have made them the most educated, productive, creative, fixed-for-centuries society in the world, but they chose to spend it becoming the most incompetent, dependent, and primitive. Now these parasites propose that the world owes them this lifestyle even if our taste for oil changes to a taste for planetary survival?
Good luck with that.
This is, of course, somewhat encouraging. It means the Saudis have a tiny feeling the West might finally get its act together and wean itself off their oil, and all the imperial weight it carries. I sure hope they’re right.
If Saudi Arabia was serious about diversifying its economy, it would open up its spigots and let the price of oil fall to the point where there were market incentives for economic diversification. Somehow, I don’t see that happening.
So, this isn’t really going to go anywhere — but what I do find particularly amusing is that if one thought about compensating dirty energy producers for the costs of climate change mitigation, then oil producers would be close to the back of the line. Coal-producing economies — like China and the United States — would be justified in demanding much greater levels of compensation, since coal is a much dirtier energy source. Oil would be in front of natural gas producers, and that’s about it.
Readers are encouraged to proffer their own proposals in the comments that would seem more outlandish than the Saudi one. Creativity counts!!
It’s interesting to look at the range of policy responses different countries have had to oil wealth. Norway has been incredibly far-sighted, while Abu Dhabi and Qatar also score quite well. All the way on the other end of the spectrum are Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. And then there’s Saudi Arabia, kind of the oil exporters and apparently world champions in chutzpah.
Free Exchange at The Economist:
If the billions of dollars per day the world has been sending oil producers for years now haven’t been enough to fund diversification, I’m not really sure what will be.