Chapter | The Natural Resources Trap: Private Investment without Public Commitment | 2010

A Resource Belief-Curse: Oil and Individualism

by Rafael Di Tella, Juan Dubra and Robert MacCulloch

Abstract

We study the correlation between a belief concerning individualism and a measure of luck in the US during the period 1983-2004. The measure of beliefs is the answer to a question related to whether the poor should be helped by the government or if they should help themselves, while the measure of luck is the share of the oil industry in the state's economy multiplied by the price of oil. The correlation is negative, suggesting that more reliance on luck is correlated with less individualism. We provide three short models that help interpret this correlation. One implication of this finding is that societies that depend heavily on oil, and perhaps natural resources more generally, will experience a heavier demand for government intervention. We argue that this is one aspect that the good design of policies on the extraction of oil and mineral resources should take into account.

Keywords: History; Natural Environment; Non-Renewable Energy; Values and Beliefs; Price; Poverty; Policy; Economy; United States;

Citation:

Di Tella, Rafael, Juan Dubra, and Robert MacCulloch. "A Resource Belief-Curse: Oil and Individualism." In The Natural Resources Trap: Private Investment without Public Commitment, edited by William Hogan and Federico Sturzenegger. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.