The Rosett Report

Oil Nationalization Day in Iran

Years ago, while traveling in Latin America, I took part in one of those games with which people amuse themselves while waiting eternally in dysfunctional airports for flights that seem to have vanished into the bureaucratic ether. I offer here a somewhat cleaned up version of the premise. The game was simply, without deviating from the truth, to complete the sentence:

You know you’re in a messed-up country when…

Some of the offerings were, for instance: You know you’re in a messed-up country when… the airport tax is denominated in dollars, and payable only in dollars… you’re willing to get up half an hour earlier just to leave that much sooner…

Here’s an entry from today’s news. You know you’re in a messed-up country of the national holidays is Oil Nationalization Day.

So it is with Iran, where state seizure of the oil industry in 1951 provided the pleasure at the time of dislodging British control of Iranian oil production. But government monopolies on oil are dangerous; that’s a big reason why OPEC, most of its members freighted with state oil companies, is such a nest of despotisms. State authority combined with enormous oil wealth flowing easily into state coffers is a mix that invites and fuels dictatorship. There is less need for rulers to to negotiate a social contract that might allow enough freedom to yield a healthy tax base; wealth simply flows from the ground, to be dispensed in the form of patronage as the state chooses. Witness the history of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, of Soviet Russia, of Qaddafi’s Libya, of Saudi Arabia, of Equatorial Guinea … and Iran.

Thus do we arrive at March 20th. You know it’s a messed-up country, when… well, here’s Iran’s PressTV celebrating Oil Nationalization Day.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple images.)