March 28, 2003

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Lou Dolinar forwards this suggestion, whcih actually came from a friend of his:

POWER TO THE PEOPLE — THE IRAQI PEOPLE

I’d like to share with you an idea that would help win the war in Iraq…and more importantly, help win the hearts and minds of its people — which we’ll need for lasting peace:

Our government should announce — soon — that the new postwar Iraqi administration will “personalize” the nation’s oil revenues by establishing an Iraqi national investment trust — The Iraqi People’s Freedom Trust — that will receive a major share — say, 50% — of all future Iraqi oil earnings.

The rest can go to central government and federal regional governments on some per capita basis.

Each Iraqi — man, woman or child — would be eligible for a personal investment account in the trust once they register as citizens of New Iraq. This is actually a fairly straightforward administrative issue to handle — given modern computing capacity, ID systems etc.

Funds in the trust may be invested in New Iraq government bonds, domestic equities, venture capital investments in Iraq or international markets. But legal ownership will be vested in each individual Iraqi — not the tribe, clan region, power-broker etc. Any Iraqi over age 21 may withdraw funds or borrow against their balances — for any reason at all.

The core models here are the Singapore Provident Fund and the existing system by which all Alaskan state citizens receive an annual check, representing their share of that state’s oil revenue.

The effect — immediately — would be to establish irrefutably that the U.S. is NOT waging this war to somehow steal Iraqi oil — but rather to return this resource to the benefit of the Iraqi people themselves — directly. One person at a time.

It would give all Iraqis a clear sense of the profound policy difference between liberators and corrupt thieves like the Ba’ath regime who have exploited, stolen and misused oil revenues in way that infuriate ordinary Iraqis — and endanger the world.

It would give the new state administration of free Iraq an immediate, directly appealing way to register citizens — and voters — and to reward their loyalty.

By ensuring that all Iraqis will have access — on reaching adulthood — to significant sources of money — it would spur entrepreneurship, revitalize the whole economy, distribute real resources to the most remote and poor regions of the country and create a very strong interest among all ethnic and confessional groups and tribes in ensuring their nation’s future stability.

We’re not talking small money here. Once its oil facilities are repaired and production is ramped up, Iraq can earn $50 billion a year from its oil. 50% of that would be about $1,000 a year per person…and funds would accumulate for young people to even more significant sums — until they came of age… I would suggest to you that such a proposal, properly structured and publicized, would have the kind of impact — in Iraq and on world opinion — that Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation did on the domestic politics — and nternational diplomacy — of our own Civil War. It would be the same kind of profoundly moral — and revolutionary — stroke.

I cannot, by God, think of a sharper, clearer bolt from the blue that would clarify what it means to “liberate” this country. And it is very hard to think of any long-term downside to this proposal.

I don’t have to tell you that centralized government control over oil and its revenues elsewhere in the world has very often been a spur to horrendous corruption, rent-seeking, and capital flight.

There’s a reason why many people refer to oil as “the Devil’s Excrement.” I believe we could turn that manure into fertilizer.

Fascinating. I’m not sure that it’s our oil to dispose of in this fashion, but I’d be interested in hearing what you think.