Quaker Universalist Voice

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Institution Formation

A Book Review of Leif Wenar, Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World (2018)

Leif  Wenar, Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World (2018) outlines the current human scandal of resource-rich countries as the cause of global tyrants, poverty, death, violence, and distorted trade consequences for the world.  But, this indictment and the consequences of resource riches for us all is not the author’s critical contribution to our understanding.  The real message is that we can organize ourselves out of this natural resource distortion dilemma through human reform actions, some of which are already underway.

This book is organized in five parts. First, the author provides a description of the trade in natural resources and that trade’s corrosive effects on the people of the location of the extraction.  Second, the author describes the harmful effects of natural resource trade distortions on the whole global population. Third, the author proposes clearer recognition of democratic natural resource sovereignty as a human right. Fourth, the author outlines mechanisms for a return to the natural resource sovereignty of the people, some of which are in place, some in process, and some outlined to be built. Fifth, the key to global natural resource sovereignty is a voluntary uniting of global people based on common principles of peace, cooperation, and commitment around practical reforms.

The book’s title focuses attention on Parts 1 and 2, which are realistic and negative in tone.  However, the key part of the book is the analysis of current, in process, and speculative institutions for establishing global human accountability for natural resource exploitation. The book provides a reasoned analysis for some of these reforms.

The author makes the indictment of the current, global, unaccountable natural resource exploitation clear:

  • Natural resources are the source of unaccountable power in the world.
  • Natural resource exploitation is destroying us all.
  • We are all complicit and in collusion with natural resource exploitation (e.g. Blood Oil, wood, and minerals)
  • There are natural resource-rich countries that are resource-cursed with dictatorships and poverty in a paradox of plenty.
  • Natural resources make the people no more rich, free, or peaceful.
  • Natural resource exploitation thwarts democracy and economic and social development.
  • The reigning Law of Effectiveness of “might makes right” results in oppression, violence, and unaccountable power to the people.
  • The effect of natural resource exploitation distortions is compounded by climate change at the equator and global youth demographics.
  • Some current strategies to mitigate natural resource exploitation are useless, not effective, or not sufficient, including: 
    • Nation alliances
    • Military action
    • Sanctions
  • The visible hope for global shared natural resources benefits is to provide mechanisms for:
    • Accountability through the people in each country;
    • A Clean Trade Framework for natural resource trade through transparency, engagement rules, resource tracking, and resource certification; and
    • The essential contribution of universal and free embrace of universal values and common interests, forming a common goal as a basis for diminishing conflict, strengthening cooperation, and peace. (It is essential to reach across borders and adopt a conditionally trusting strategy based on action in an unconditionally trustworthy manner.)

The author’s important key is in offering practical suggestions for values implementation in a global context.

The author provides interesting end notes, a bibliography, and an index.


There is no mention of Quakers in the book.  Quakers share in the universal human resource dilemma.  As the world goes, so go Quakers.


  • Do Quakers have a useful leader role or follower role in establishing accountability mechanisms for natural resource extraction and trade?
  • How can Quakers provide a witness for sustainable and accountable global natural resource management?


  • Leif Wenar, Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World (2018)

J. Diamond, Upheaval (2019)

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