Earlier this week the BIG NEWS was all the mineral riches that appear to be underground in Afganistan. This was presented as if it were news, which it apparently wasn't as the report about it came out in 2007. It was also presented as if this were good news for Afganistan, which it most definitely is not.
Why would a bunch of valuable minerals under your land be bad news? Well, if it was your land personally, maybe it wouldn't. But a quick look around the world at what countries are rich, which are poor, and which are war torn will show you that countries whose only wealth comes from natural resources are some of the poorest, most unstable countries in the world.
Take for instance.....well, pick just about any country in Africa. Or, more specifically, read about how the oil industry is benefiting Nigeria in this story in today's NY Times. The fact is, without a stable democracy to make sure that some of the wealth from the minerals gets put into things like education, infrastructure, and health care that will benefit the whole country, mineral wealth tends to be seized by a few businessman and/or corrupt politicians. Oh, and you might expect there to be lively warring factions trying to get control of the minerals.
So, what does this mineral wealth mean to Afganistan? More war, more foreign invaders, more political corruption(if that is in fact possible in Afganistan) and little benefit in terms of a better life to the people.
Hey, but there is good news: Our laptop batteries could get cheaper!