September 30, 2003

I WAS WONDERING ABOUT THE IRAQI OIL TRUST IDEA, and this WSJ editorial contains the following nugget:

Plans are also well under way to give all Iraqis a stake in the success of their new society through the creation of an oil trust, some of which would go to fund public goods like education and some of which would be paid out directly to individuals on a regular basis (in a version of the Alaska oil trust). That strikes us as an enlightened way to show Iraqis that they have a stake in this transition to self-rule.

I’d like to read more about this.

UPDATE: Well, in the paper edition of the Wall Street Journal, there’s a bit more, in the form of an oped by Fareed Yasseen. He’s critical of the oil trust idea, on the plausible grounds that (1) it’s a disincentive to work; and (2) it will, in effect, enhance the power of patriarchs and clan leaders.

These are plausible objections, though I don’t know if they should carry the day. But that I’m reading about this — really important — stuff on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and not in news accounts that instead stress the latest pinprick attack by Saddam’s holdouts (and miss the real story even there) simply illustrates what a dreadful job the press is doing in reporting what’s going on in Iraq.

Yasseen also thinks that Bremer is pushing privatization too fast. This is a real issue. In a place like Iraq, there are two kinds of people likely to be able to buy privatized assets: Baathist leftovers and collaborators, and foreigners. Both pose problems — though the Iraqi expatriate community, which I think should be given preferential treatment, is a different kettle of fish.

Again, why isn’t this kind of stuff getting the above-the-fold treatment? Because it matters.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Weidner thinks Iraq needs a good dose of federalism, along the Swiss model. Are they talking about it in Iraq?

I’d like to know.