My friend Will hopes that oil prices stay low, in order to insure that the Russian Federation remains behaved.
My response: Please get the stupid, and I mean truly monumentally stupid, idea of the resource curse out of your heads? It's a well-accepted idea, but it's just plain wrong. No matter what Tom Friedman writes about it.
Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo have a paper coming out that shows that there is no, squat, zero, ningún relationship between democracy and oil resources. Haber and ... uh ... me ... will eventually have a paper showing the same thing for civil war.
But hell, maybe Russia is different. So my question for you all is simple. Why would an authoritarian government, no, why would a dictatorship give up power because its export revenues went down? That makes no bloody sense. It could default on foreign debtors. It could blame foreigners for any crisis. It could shoot dissidents, you know, the way Panama did under Noriega.
Is there any reason to believe that a fat Russia would be more democratic and less expansionist than a lean Russia? No. F@&k no. There isn't any reason to believe the opposite either, of course ... but by God do I wish that people would stop fooling themselves. Resource money has fueled democratic transitions and dictatorial takeovers, foreign expansion and foreign engagement. Those who know Russia better will be able to predict that country's idiosyncratic political reaction to declining export revenues ... but why any of the information in this story, about governments trying to crack down on the bearers of bad news, would make an observer hope for sustained bad news is beyond me.
Ah, here comes my first AFOE cross-post. But your reactions first. At least until I can find the damned keys to that blog.