Monday, July 10, 2006
A Not So Radical Proposal: Privatize Iraq’s Oil Wealth
Since the liquidation of al-Zarqawi and the installment of a democratically elected government, the public discourse on the future of Iraq has been much more positive. While those on the far-left continue to engage in unproductive sniping, responsible persons on the left and right have offered a critique of what has worked and what has not worked with a view to bringing about a stable, free, and prosperous Iraq. Among them is economist Milton Friedman. In a recent conversation with the President of Hillsdale College, Mr. Freidman offered what I think to be one of the most intriguing critiques to date. In his view, the United States should not have permitted the Iraqi government to retain ownership of the country’s oil wealth. Instead, each citizen should have been issued shares in a new, private oil corporation. Had this been done, every Iraqi (Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd) would have a stake in the stability of the new Iraq. Sectarian violence and efforts to seize control of the national oil wealth by political means would have been rendered counterproductive, if not meaningless. The United States may have missed a golden opportunity here, but it is not too late for Iraq’s leadership to divest itself of its control of the national wealth, empower the public, and end Sunni support for foreign and domestic terrorists.