Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Seductive Disaster Of Land Redistribution

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A fundamental mystery of life is why so many people are poor and starving. Why aren't they all like us? The statistics are appalling, and I don’t want to appall you, but you have all seen and read about it. Half the people of the world endure short, miserable lives.

The Left would have you believe that their lives are miserable because of us. We take their food, don’t we?

I have read that poor nations exporting food products to rich nations is one of the reasons the poor are starving. There is one big problem with that. Using the United States as an example, we produce an enormous surplus of food already, and have no need for the products of poor nations to ward off starvation. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate their bananas, coffee, cocoa, spices, and lots of other goodies. We just don’t need them to prevent starvation.

Actually, a little starvation wouldn’t be bad for the overweight populations of the United States and the rest of the Western nations right about now.

If poor nations quit producing and selling the bananas, coffee, and etc., they sell to us, wouldn’t they be better off? They could redistribute the land to the poor people, and then the poor people could plant a variety of crops and not starve anymore, is that not so?

The Left, of course, believes that land redistribution would eliminate world poverty and hunger, and as usual they are absolutely and totally wrong! It would make it much, much worse.

At this point the Left mobilizes their armies of Ph D’s to squash the heresy that this modest MBA, CPA, retired Air Force Major is spewing. For over a century the mantra of the Left has been “the people” – at various times they have had their People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, of Cuba, of Bangladesh, of Georgia, of China, and of Just About Every Failed State In The World.

Of course, while the Left was pontificating about the blessings of socialism, the smarter socialists like the Chinese, Poles, and Czechs jumped on the capitalist train to the People’s Republic of Prosperity. Some not so smart socialists, like the Russians, got pushed on board and haven’t figured out yet where they are going or how they’re going to make things better when they get there. The real dumb ones, Cuba and North Korea, got pushed under the train, but in their ignorance the North Koreans think they have it better than all the rest. The Cubans just pretend they do, while waiting to find out what the world already knows – communism is as dead as Castro, who at best is now on death support.

But I digress.

One way to foretell the probable disastrous outcome of land redistribution would be to look at where it has been done. Forinstance, in Zimbabwe, white farmers making up one percent of the population owned seventy percent of the arable land, and Zimbabwe was self sufficient in food production plus was able to earn hard currency by exporting agricultural products. Many blacks worked on the farms, but there were also many who lived and worked in growing cities.

President Mugabe fixed all that. First, he seized land from white farmers and redistributed it to blacks. Immediately agricultural production fell far below previous levels, and Zimbabwe could not feed its own population, let alone continue agricultural exports. The resulting severe hard currency shortage led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods.

At this point Mugabe displayed the genius that black African leaders have at following Leftist principles to really mess things up. In this case he noticed that the cities had filled with blacks living in shanties, desperate to escape agricultural failures. In typical Leftist fashion he had his troops tear down their homes and drive them from the cities, purportedly so that they could live in non-existent decent housing.

That’s right; Mugabe solved the problem of people living in slums unfit for human habitation by making them homeless.

Why would land redistribution to the poor of the world be an unmitigated disaster? I hope you were taking notes when I mentioned that the United States produces an incredible food surplus, by far the largest of any nation or region of the world. Why is that so, since only about five percent of the US population are farmers or farm workers?

In a word, industrialization of agriculture (OK, that’s three words). You can grow a lot more of just about any crop if you can substitute machine power for animal and human power in the process. The tradeoff is that it is not economical to use expensive machinery on small farms; the corollary is that small farmers will never be able to amass the capital to buy the machinery to be big farmers if the goal of each of them is to intensely farm the acres they receive through land redistribution to meet the food needs of their families.

Here it is time to pause and consider another dynamic of the human condition. If the people produce enough on the land they now own to escape starvation, they will be able to expand the size of their families rapidly. Actually, they already are doing that even in the face of rampant disease and starvation. Think of what they could accomplish on full (or fuller) stomachs.

The point of this examination of family size is that soon the families will need more land to support their growing numbers. Either that, or the surplus of farmer progeny will have to leave the land to find jobs in the cities. That might not prove too difficult if their governments encourage capitalistic endeavors, but it will only add to poverty and misery if their governments resist economic modernization.

At this point we ask the musical question, “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, when they can get a good job in the city?” Or at least they hope they can get a job in the city. They already know about farm work.

I hate to disillusion all the romantic “back to the land” types, but when you have to farm with just the strength of your body, and crop failures mean starvation, it makes it easy to give up the known misery of farm labor for the unknown misery of city life.

The Chinese knew the perils and drudgery of farming years ago. They knew that all that kept them alive was being able to produce and maintain the manpower needed for subsistence farming. Boys were necessities, girls were luxuries. A son would marry and bring a wife into the house to work and produce more sons. A daughter would marry, live with her husband’s family, and leave her own family wondering why they had invested so much food and care on her. Because of the selective abortion of girls, and the lure of city life for young women eager to escape the drudgery of farm life, today many Chinese farmers have to get “mail order” brides from poorer nations, particularly North Korea.

To sum it all up, the Left for many years has looked upon land redistribution as the panacea for world poverty and hunger. They cannot see the obvious, that redistribution that takes land from industrial farming into subsistence farming is a huge step backwards on the ladder of economic evolution. It drives capital, mechanization, and scientific advances out of farming, and ties the small farmers to a lifetime of hard work, material deprivation, and spiritual isolation.

The eradication of poverty and hunger is eventually going to result from the globalization of world economies that the Left fights so mightily. Economic globalization rewards higher education, and economic and political stability and freedom, with employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. In turn, there are many beneficial side effects, such as the concentration of population growth in cities, the creation of wealth to enable us to protect and improve our environment, and a higher quality of life for mankind.

The proof of my position is already in evidence in the high standard of living we have in the United States, the improving living standards in China and India, and the disastrous failures in Zimbabwe and other socially “progressive” nations.

I hope the nations of the world recognize the bankruptcy of the Left’s dogma, and in particular that Mexico understands the awful mistake they would make by promoting and supporting “democratic” land reform. It makes a wonderful sounding populist slogan, but is a counterproductive step leading to economic disaster.

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