If you're looking for a good example of an oxymoron, or at the very least of a counterintuitive situation, nothing works better than the famed "resource curse." The idea that great natural wealth might in fact contribute to keeping a country poor has captured the public imagination precisely because it helps explain a phenomenon that is one of the great paradoxes of our time: Countries blessed with fabulous riches are often also cursed, perhaps inevitably, with grinding poverty.
But the phenomenon with the catchy title deserves a closer, critical look, because recent evidence suggests that the potion for breaking the devilish hex has already been found.
The original hypothesis served a useful purpose in helping us understand a baffling economic reality that is also known as the paradox of plenty. How is it possible that nations such as, say, Nigeria, whose territory practically floats on a sea of oil, are plagued with horrific poverty, corruption and mismanagement? Why is it that great mineral wealth is so often accompanied by human rights abuses, lack of political pluralism and a dearth of economic vitality?