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Shaking the Resource Curse

By Leif Wenar, Christian Barry, Matt Peterson | Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Public Ethics Media | October 7, 2008

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When we talk about theft in international trade, we usually mean piracy, smuggling, or copyright infringement. Professor Leif Wenar, of King's College London, thinks we might be missing the forest for the trees.

Illegal transactions across borders are going on every day on an enormous scale. Consumers cannot help buying stolen goods when they buy gasoline and magazines, clothing and cosmetics, cell phones and laptops, perfume and jewelry. Worse, the money consumers spend at the mall and the filling station ends up in the hands of some of the most brutal rebels and repressive regimes in the world.

Wenar set out a powerful case in a recent paper in Philosophy & Public Affairs to show that corporations and countries that buy natural resources from bad actors in developing countries are violating the property rights of the people of those countries. If this claim is justified, then it is urgent to find ways to stop these corporations and countries from sending us these stolen goods.

Public Ethics Radio is a production of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) in Canberra, Australia—the world's largest concentration of applied philosophers—in association with the Carnegie Council.

Public Ethics Radio is hosted by Christian Barry and produced by Matt Peterson. Find out more by visiting or writing to

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Read More: Business, Democracy, Development, Economy, Energy, Environment, Ethics, Governance, Human Rights, Trade, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa, Global

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