Thursday, August 14, 2008

The new Arctic land rush: What's in it for me?

With war raging in Georgia, time to reconsider government ownership of oil -- whether the government is the US or Russia.

A old post of mine over at the Blog at

The new Arctic land rush: What's in it for me?

OK, melting ice and potential oil in the Arctic have brought out the worst in neighboring governments. (U.S. expedition mapping the Arctic) But, I have to ask, "What's in it for me?"

There are three possible outcomes: ownership of the oil-rich land is given to me (highly unlikely); it's given to another individual, or group of individuals, who will trade with me (again, highly unlikely, based on the number of military vessels in the region); one of the posturing governments gains control of the land and claims and enforces its sovereignty (the likely scenario).

Since the first two possibilities are chasings after a rainbow, I am left with oil in the hands of government. The actual government means little to me; I don't even care if the US somehow exerts control and wins this land rush in international courts.

Oil, or any mineral for that matter, in the hands of government is the worst possible outcome. Why? Because the rules of trade are replaced by the power of the hammer. And, the oil will not be brought to market -- or, withheld from market for that matter -- based on market-driven factors that lead to efficient utilization. To make matters even worse, the government with title will waste its ill-gotten oil revenue on destructive projects.

There can be no good coming from a government title to the Arctic oilfields. These fields will be tapped and drained at the whim of rent-seekers, bureaucrats, and the elected bozos, not based on the wants of consumers.

Do I really care which political entity claims rights to this oil? Not in the least. Though, I am saddened to know that this discovery will not fully benefit acting individuals, in the short-run, or long-run.

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