Most large exporters of energy are LDCs (less democratic countries). Oil seems to do that to countries. Venezuela for example, a nation that had been a democracy for decades is now more and more an LDC. How does this happen? Easy, a democratically elected president gets control over growing oil revenues and buys himself political power. Fast forward to Argentina. Argentina is a modest energy exporter nowhere near the ranks of Venezuela. Argentina however is a very large agricultural commodity exporter. Now that energy importing democracies (EU, USA) are beginning to use food to fuel their cars, namely biodiesel, and now that the prices of some agricultural commodities are beginning to track the price of oil, will we see the same tendency to power concentration in Argentina? Will we see Argentina joining the ranks of the LDCs thanks to Kirchner´s ability to control a few exports? Hopefully not but the combination of the autocratic tendencies of Kirchner with a very high price of agricultural commodities concerns me.
The temptation to buy votes using state resources becomes hard to resist. And at a global scale I have another concern with biodiesel. I used to wonder about how was it possible that Argentina, one of the largest food exporters in the world, and Brazil, another one, had starving children. The question then was, should a country with starving citizens export food to other countries? But now the moral dilemma is even worse. Should a country with starving citizens export food so others in rich countries feed…. their SUVs?
Posted on May 7, 2006