Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is land reform allowed in the flat world?

"For those who haven’t been to Pakistan, you should know that in remote areas you periodically run into vast estates — comparable to medieval Europe — in which the landowner runs the town, perhaps operates a private prison in which enemies are placed, and sometimes pretty much enslaves local people through debt bondage, generation after generation. This feudal elite has migrated into politics, where it exerts huge influence. And just as the heartlessness of feudal and capitalist barons in the 19th century created space for Communists, so in Pakistan this same lack of compassion for ordinary people seems to create space for Islamic extremists. There are other answers, of course, such as education, civil society, and the lawyers’ movement. But I wonder if land reform wouldn’t be a big help." (Thanks D.)

Kristof is right here, although the explanation about inequalities creating space "for communists and islamic fundamentalism" is to say the least conveniently simplistic. But he is discovering what the Left has known for a long long time. The question is of course how to implement land reforms with minimal corruption and cronyism. Other issues arise, such as the political use of land reforms to undermine regimes that seeks to redistribute wealth. The rich control much of the land...and the media, and their story is the one that will be mainstreamed. Leftist regimes are not always interested in being puppets, so they will also have to bear the pressure of the global political bullies. Venezuela?

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