Does the oil curse exist?

The oil curse is a generally accepted truth - there are is no shortage of anecdotes from countries with oil (e.g. Brazil, Nigeria) and concern from those who might discover it (e.g. Greenland). The comparative growth trajectories of Latin America and China/India draw a striking (if not statistically rigorous) contrast between natural resource wealth and economic growth.

But at Aid Watch, Adam Martin questions whether the curse does in fact stand up to analytical scrutiny. He argues that empirical work on the oil curse confuses abundance with dependence and cites three recent papers that show that "even natural resource dependence does not undermine democratization." He later clarifies for commenters:
- I’m not claiming there are no ill effects associated with natural resources. I’m saying these studies failed to find evidence that resources systematically effect democracy, growth, or development, and most of the popular studies that do have fundamental flaws.

- It’s also not the case that these studies (or I) claim that there are NO countries that fit the Curse story, but that it’s not the systemic phenomenon other studies had argued for.
It's quite an interesting and counterintuitive finding. I am inherently skeptical of cross-country regressions, especially when they run counter to things that so many people have seen firsthand in practice. But it is good to keep an open mind, and I applaud Martin for arguing the other side of the story.

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