Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Powers of Petrocracy

Fouad Ajami, U.S. News & World Report (US: Washington DC)

The great democratic wave of the last quarter century has bypassed the oil lands. The oil lands are distributive states. Wealth comes to the rulers, they dispose of it, they distribute it to cronies, they punish and overwhelm their would-be challengers at home, and they use it to sustain adventures abroad way beyond the limits of their societies ... In Saudi Arabia, an antimodernist cultural and religious ban on women driving cars persists because, at the very least, oil grants that society waiver from the imperatives of economic rationality. Younger, more educated people agitate against this ban, but the caravan proceeds, as a desert expression might put it. Over the past five years, the Saudi kingdom took in more that $800 billion of oil wealth: The arguments of modernity and economic rationality can be swept aside. Saudi Arabia today is the largest consumer, per capita, of energy, exceeding the United States. In that desert realm, oil consumption is an annual 33 barrels per person, versus 26 barrels per person in the United States. Liberty can wait—the need for air conditioning is more pressing.

1 comment:

Abu Daoud said...

Since KSA doesn't have fresh water they also use massive amounts of electricity on desalinization plants, but it's hard to criticize that I think.