Four Tenths of a Hectare and a Mess


How do you parcel out land in a nation of nomads? Mongolia is trying to overcome nearly a century of communal land ownership, and the country is using Peruvian Economist Hernando de Soto's prescriptions as a model. But in a nation where half the people are herders, land privatization is going to take some getting used to:

When the government first offered them a plot of four-tenths of a hectare in Bayanzurh Toucho in a new community built for nomads agreeing to be settled down, they grabbed it without questions. But now Davasuren says that while he appreciates owning some land, he is not sure what to do with it…

Although Davasuren and his wife have been "settled" for more than a year, they say they still cannot get used to the idea of living in a concrete or brick home. So they have simply pitched their old gher or yurt—the round canvas and felt tent used by nomads—in the middle of their plot.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: And the Interrogator Wasn't Even Johnny Depp

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Shouldn’t that be “several thousand years of communal land ownership?”

  2. Sounds like a terrible misapplication of De Soto’s ideas. They aren’t legalizing de facto property ownership so the people can vivify their “dead capital”; they’re undermining a long-established system of property ownership that evolved to fit the needs of a particular society, and imposing one that’s obviously ill-suited for the steppes.

    1. in Montana homesteads were not established in many regions until farmers were given 640 acres of land. In many parts of Canada, the USA and Australia ranches are often 10, 000 acres to a half million acres to some being several million acres. A better strategy would be to formally recognize clan ownership of grazing lands along a route to allow for rotational grazing, implement a branding to determine ownership of cattle between clans and by individuals within clans. parcel large sections of land for individual ownership by farmers, create separate property rights for mineral clams and require permission from the clans.

  3. “…many herders say that the government’s real goal is to get them off land it wants to explore and lease out to mining companies,”

    I think the term privatization should have quotation marks around it in this situation. Like NAFTA and “free trade.”

  4. matt – yeah, like when California ‘deregulated’ it’s energy infrastructure and all my lefty friends said, “see, look what happens when you deregulate a market like that!”

  5. I remember reading the account of an ambassador to Genghis Khan. Khan had this huge palace with a courtyard, and in the middle was a tent that he actually lived in.

  6. This sounds either like the fencing in of the open range in the American West, or like the enclosure movement in England in the late medieval and early modern period.

    There’s an interesting account, in one of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books, about the attempt to enclose a common in early 19th century England. I got the impression from reading the story that the law permitting enclosure, while supposedly based on the sanctity of private property, was in fact a way of depriving the poorest elements of society of what little property they had (i.e., their stake in the commons) and giving them a paltry compensation for it (sorta like the compensation the state gives people whose property is taken under eminent domain and then handed over to Wal-Mart).

  7. I also read that the Enclosure Acts had the effect of driving many rural people to the cities to look for a new living, thereby artificially inflating the urban labor pool, thereby depressing wages, thereby encouraging more people to send their children to work in factories (because every penny brought into the family was needed), thereby adding more to the labor pool, etc., and creating or worsening many of the social problems usually attributed to early industrialization and capitalism.

  8. I’ve also heard that there is the potential that the government is doing this so that they can sell exploration rights for ghengis khan’s tomb.

    The government knows that the discovery could be the cornerstone of SOME sort of tourist industry.

  9. ‘The Yellow Admiral’ – Aubrey is against the enclosure (of Woolhampton Common, I believe) for exactly that reason – it was usually done in the interests of big landowners who desired to convert the common to proprietary grazing (sheep) or farm (corn) land, while shutting the tenants and freeholders into plots too small to support their own animals (thus increasing their dependence on the local magnate). The landowners generally carried the day because of their local and parliamentary influence, but there was a period when ‘enclosures’ were the subject of much bitter debate – part of the complex of issues tied into the corn laws and free trade that dominated political discourse in the years after the wars. (One might note that the champion of the enclosure in the book is a relative of Aubrey’s immediate superior, who is another devoted “scientific farmer”.)

  10. What is the primary form of farmland ownership in China?

  11. TPG,

    Even if that was meant sarcastically, I could see them trying something like that. But who’d actually travel all the way to Mongolia to see where Genghis Khan might be buried?

  12. Ooh ooh! I know!

    Geraldo Rivera!

  13. A gross misapplication of DeSoto’s ideas. DeSoto argued for granting legal, formal title to the system of ownership/occupation that already existed on the ground. The elimination of the informal systems people have worked out in the name of property rights or the promotion of “proper” development is exactly what DeSoto was reacting to.

    A Mongolian application of DeSoto’s ideas might involve the recognition of legal easements over the state-owned land. The herders could then sell or rent or mortgage these rights – which are property rights, ownership stakes, and enforceable in the courts – as they see fit.

  14. Give them back their bullets.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.