Leif Wenar says it is "patronizing theft to buy natural resources." Tyler Cowan says "he proposes suing Exxon to create a chain reaction."
The only thing more patronizing than paying a pittance to the worlds poor for the natural resources we need for lip gloss and shave cream is suing on behalf of those poor people.
That said, Wenar is right that there's a problem. Here are my priorities:
- Wherever possible, we should use renewable resources.
- If renewable resources won't do it, we should do our best to keep the resources we've already "harvested" in the supply loop, preferably through reuse, but through recycling when the materials need to be reprocessed.
- Whenever renewable resources are harvested, it should be in sustainable volumes, and prices should reflect replacement cost.
- When non-renewable resources are harvested, the price should be high. I don't know how high.
I doubt a lawsuit is the way to settle the issue.