Global justice theorists have given much attention to corporations’ purchases of state-owned natural resources controlled by dictators. These resources, the common argument goes, belong to the people rather than to those who exercise effective political power. Dictators who rely on violence to secure their political power and who sell state-owned natural resources without authorisation from their people, or from their people’s elected delegates, are therefore violating their peoples’ property rights. But many dictatorships also distribute natural resource revenue to the population, and stopping to purchase natural resources from them is therefore likely to produce relative deprivation for the people, even while increasing the chances of the people gaining control over their property. Given these circumstances, can corporations buying the people’s natural resources from a distributive dictatorship appeal to the people’s consent as justification for such purchases? I consider this question by inspecting three types of consent to which resource corporations might appeal. I show that, under the circumstances of natural resource trade with distributive dictatorships, none of these types of consent can obtain. Hence, resource corporations cannot appeal to popular consent to defend their transactions with distributive dictatorships.
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