Leif Wenar on the Resource Curse and Impact Philosophy – #49

Corey and Steve interview Leif Wenar, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University and author of Blood Oil. They begin with memories of Leif and Corey’s mutual friend David Foster Wallace and end with a discussion of John Rawls and Robert Nozick (Wenar’s thesis advisor at Harvard, and a friend of Steve’s). Corey asks whether Leif shares his view that analytic philosophy had become too divorced from wider intellectual life. Leif explains his effort to re-engage philosophy in the big issues of our day as Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Mill and Marx were in theirs. He details how a trip to Nigeria gave him insight into the real problems facing real people in oil-rich countries. Leif explains how the legal concept of “efficiency” led to the resource curse and argues that we should refuse to buy oil from countries that are not minimally accountable to their people. Steve notes that some may find this approach too idealistic and not in the US interest. Leif suggests that what philosophers can contribute is the ability to see the big synthetic picture in a complex world.