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October 4, 2014

How to stabilize Iraq, Syria, etc.

There are a few countries that can utilize the solution, let’s call it the Alaska Rule. Well, you’ve probably guessed what it is, but permit me the opportunity to spin it anyway. There are some countries that are very rich in terms of natural resources but have a citizenry which is mostly poor. “How can this be?” you may ask. The answer is simple. These countries have despotic rulers who engage in mischief. They buy palaces for themselves and their children. They reward their tribe and punish others. They promulgate inter-religious distrust and hatred. They buy military hardware beyond any reasonable need and employ relatively huge armies.

What I propose is that the receipts from the sale of natural resources (or perhaps 80% of the receipts) be distributed to the population of these countries on a per capita basis. That is every adult, male or female, gets the same share. Oh how this would change behavior. No longer would people tolerate those among them who would blow up pipelines or oil wells. Respect for women would miraculously rise. Tribal and religious animosity would diminish as attachment to the state would increase. Most importantly, the ruling class . . . if one remained, would have fewer opportunities to engage in mischief.

How do you get from here to there? There may have been a moment in the midst of the Iraq war when such a solution could have been imposed on Iraq. Maybe it could emerge in Iraq as part of a negotiation among the various parties attempting to hold that country together: Kurds, Sunni, Shiite, tribes, whomever. Maybe the Free Syria Army could make this a plank in their platform as a device to pull the undecided to their camp. Once the Alaska Rule has been imposed, it would be very difficult to undo it.

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