Roșia Montană and the Price of Gold

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What happens after the social dislocation caused by the (partial) system change in 1989 and the related appearance of Western firms who climb into bed with the “new” rulers who have more than a foot in the old world of the nomenklatura, where private ownership by the “little people” is to be ignored and local traditions are an annoyance to be “modernized” like Nicolae Ceaușescu’s satanic program to raze historic villages against the will of the residents (that was so praised by the US media)?

What should we adherents of the true free market think about a Canadian firm that makes a deal with the government in Bucharest to raze the oldest village (dating back from Roman times) in Transylvania so as to get at the approximately 300 tons of gold that lies underneath? What of the legitimate owners of the village properties — including all of the major churches — who refuse to sell to the the Gold Corporation of Canada? Does the last villager, who faces the prospect of his house being subsumed into a cyanide waste pond have any say? What are the limits of individualism and individual rights?

This is the historic village now. This is how it will look if the Canadian firm, in partnership with the Romanian government, is able to intimidate the last holdovers to sell out. It is not surprising that there will be hold outs. What should their rights be, as property owners?

Of course it is not an easy question, but a quite balanced film called “Gold Futures” based on a previous work by filmmaker Tibor Kocsis tackles the difficult issue. We who love gold should also ponder the local complications of its extraction, particularly when we also value property rights — and abhor violent coercion — so highly.

8:38 pm on April 30, 2012
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