Journal of Law and Policy


Tom Brower


The resource curse—the paradoxical relationship between natural resource abundances and poorer economic growth, weaker political institutions, and higher levels of conflict—remains one of the most confounding issues in international development. Although the literature has proffered a plethora of institutional solutions to the resource curse, they have been vexed by a common theme: their unsuccessful implementation in developing countries without the proper institutional foundations that act as a bulwark against policy reversal and the perpetuation of rent-seeking behavior. This Article introduces constitutionally protected natural resource revenue allocation institutions as a superior mechanism for a state to allocate rents from natural resources. Constitutions act as credible commitments both by formally entrenching rules and institutions against legal change as well as by serving as coordination mechanisms that significantly deter policy reversal due to the significant costs associated with ignoring or undermining constitutional provisions. As a result, constitutional revenue allocations can help counter the resource curse because they are more likely to endure and they can assist in managing and distributing natural resource revenue in an efficient and equitable fashion. Ultimately, this Article makes significant conceptual and theoretical contributions to one of the most pressing issues facing international development.