‘Petropolitics’ and the price of freedom

“As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up… As the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down…” So says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who argues that the first law of ‘petropolitics’ is that the price of oil and the pace of freedom are inversely correlated in countries “totally dependent on oil” for economic growth. However, the correlation between recent oil price spikes and anti-authoritarian action – particularly in the Arab Spring – challenges this assessment. But if this pattern of change is to continue, Western states must curb their hypocritical dependence on authoritarian oil-exporting governments by developing more sustainable sources of energy.

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