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re: too little, too late

June 15, 2009

Someone commented:

the unfettered exploitation of natural resources by a small minority is unsustainable

The small minority here are the indigenous people who are fighting violently to keep a monopoly on the land resources that they just happened to be lucky enough to be born near. What right do they have to determine how those resources are used? Big deal, they won the genetic lottery and are on land that contains value natural resources.

The Peruvian government has every right to carry out violence against tiny minorities (1 percent of the population) who become violent when the democratically elected government of Peru legally brokers deals on the natural resources in the country. Groups who threaten to do things like sabotage oil pipelines and kill police officers are committing crimes against humanity.

Peru may be rather poor, but its still a stable democracy with a fairly high GDP per capita. Its not Niger, or Burma. You could more rightfully compare oil drilling in Peru to drilling in US states like Alaska or Texas.

My response:

To begin with, you’ve taken that quote out of context. It’s part of a general statement regarding the way society is currently structured and the fact that a small minority of people who possess both power and capital exploit the majority of the world’s resources for their own gain, even to the detriment of local populations.

As for Peru being a “democracy,” I agree with Madison, albeit somewhat reluctantly, about the dangers of having a majority of citizens who are united and motivated by a common interest who can take away the rights of the minority of other citizens. As he put it in Federalist No. 10, “… the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.”

Of course, I think Madison was more worried about protecting the small minority of property owners from the majority of the propertyless; nevertheless, his ideas about protecting “individual liberty” from majority rule are still important ones to think about. All in all, I think it’s a good argument for a constitution-based, representative government in which the majority prevails while also including certain protections for minorities that discourage abuse.

In this case, the people who’ll arguably be impacted the most by President Garica’s decision to open vast expanses of forest to foreign investors interested in drilling for oil, logging and building dams have almost no say whatsoever, even when its their own land. I don’t think that’s acceptable. And, apparently, neither do the indigenous Peruvians.

The President of Peru [who said “40,000 natives did not have the right to tell 28 million Peruvians not to come to their lands”] blames “foreign forces” for the violence of the native people, and I think he’s right—if by “foreign forces” he means the foreign investors interested in drilling for oil, logging and building dams on their land without their consent.

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