The Plundered Planet
By Paul Collier
The Plundered Planet. (Paul Collier). Oxford University Press, 2010; 288pp; 978-0195395259
● The Resource Curse, or the paradoxical situation that countries endowed with natural resource wealth tend to be poorer than those that are not, is actually due to how countries are run and how that wealth is reinvested into the country.
● Properly investing that wealth into the country will result in economic prosperity and prevent ecological plunder.
Brief Description of the Book
Collier discusses the link between natural capital and economic growth. He is essentially a neo-classical sustainability economist. He argues that we are not obliged to preserve any specific aspect of nature, but that we are obliged to pass on to future generations the equivalent value of natural assets we have today. At this moment, many countries, the poorest usually, don’t do t his. He argues that this is the result of poor governance in managing non-renewable resources. This results in the resource curse, where countries are actually economically worse off in the long run after a spike in resource revenues.
Collier charts a sensible middle path between what he calls “utilitarian economists,” who if left on their own would plunder the planet, and “romantic environmentalists,” who would favor policies that would ultimately leave the poorest billion people hungry. He argues that nature can be turned into economic assets that will help raise the living standard of the bottom billion people in a way that won’t plunder the planet. Good governance and regulation is the key; the middle path between extreme laissez-faire and excessive protection that would prevent development.
“The challenge of harnessing nature can be summarized in a simple formula, a formula that the world as a whole, and poorest countries in particular, must master: nature + technology + regulation = prosperity.”
“Regulation requires good governance, but most of the societies of the bottom billion have had weak governance. The consequence might be summarized in another simple formula: nature + technology – regulation = plunder.”
Why is this book important to understanding the environmental crisis?
This book contributes fresh wisdom to our understanding of the resource curse, a paradoxical reality that has plagued many poor nations. There is a strong tendancy to quickly exploit a newly discovered resource, especially in poor countries looking for an escape from poverty. However, as Collier demonstrates, without proper regulations the resource will be plundered, leading to ecological devastation and ultimately no economic benefit. This work helps explain that poor countries’ development is directly linked to nature, and that if nature is plundered, poor countries will condemned to remain poor.
Collier is an economist at Oxford University. Specifically, he studies governance of low-income countries, especially the political economy of democracy. He also studies the economics of civil war, aid, globalization and poverty. Furthermore, he is an expert on African economies.
Breakfast of Biodiversity: the Truth about Rain Forest Destruction (Vandermeer, John H., and Ivette Perfecto) Oakland, CA: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1995
“The Plundered Planet – By Paul Collier | Foreign Policy.” Foreign Policy – the Global Magazine of Economics, Politics, and Ideas. 2010. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/29/the_plundered_planet