Evo Morales, Privatizer?

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Not long after Bolivia's leftist president nationalized natural gas, he started one of the biggest privatization programs in recent Latin American history. Of course, he didn't call it privatization—he called it land reform:

Leftist President Evo Morales launched a sweeping land reform plan on Saturday by handing over roughly 9,600 square miles of state-owned land to poor Indians….

The ceremony came after talks broke down between Morales and agribusiness leaders on land reforms that involve handing out 77,000 square miles of government land—an area twice the size of Portugal—over the next five years.

Like most land reform plans, this one will eventually affect private holdings as well, though the holdings in question owe more to the remnants of Latin feudalism than to the market.

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  1. Chavez has done this in Ven. as well — of course all libertarians should ignore any positive attempts either of these two try cause they are like bad and stuff…

  2. From TFA

    On Wednesday, the National Farming Confederation said it would form “self-defense” groups to defend land it feared could be confiscated. It did not give details, but the Morales administration said the groups would be illegal.

    Boy, Bolivia sure does sound like a libertarian utopia, doesn’t it?

  3. Chavez has done this in Ven. as well

    Yes, though the transfers there included a lot of restraints on what the recipients were allowed to do with the land. I don’t know whether Morales’ plan includes similar restrictions.

  4. Chavez has done this in Ven. as well — of course all libertarians should ignore any positive attempts either of these two try cause they are like bad and stuff…

    That’s because it’s not real land reform — real land reform means the government divests itself of good land and then lets the market do the rest.

    What’s going on here is just the standard Marxist practice of giving marginal land to poor people who have no idea what they are doing, and then taking the good, productive lands for the Ruling Class and their cronies.

    If this follows the standard model, then food shortages and increased poverty will be the natural result.

    But hey, you can always blame it on the European Invaders, right?

  5. If this follows the standard model, then food shortages and increased poverty will be the natural result.

    But hey, you can always blame it on the European Invaders, right?

    We are sick of you oppressors!

  6. “What’s going on here is just the standard Marxist practice of giving marginal land to poor people who have no idea what they are doing, and then taking the good, productive lands for the Ruling Class and their cronies.”

    Cause poor people are stupid and don’t know what they are doing. Right? Ven. has given the land the poor people were living on and giving them title within the context of neighboorhood associations – not perfect but when are we ever dealing with perfection in the realm of politics? Again, everything Chavez ever does should be dismissed cause he’s bad and stuff and poeple I don’t like like him so he must be really really bad.

  7. The government shouldn’t have owned the land anyway. All else being equal, as long as there’s no quid-pro-quo at work in divvying up the land, fine, go right ahead.

    I strongly doubt that’s the case though.

  8. Just under 90 percent of Bolivia’s productive terrain is worked by only 50,000 families, leaving millions of Bolivians with little or no land, according to the government.

    It would be interesting to know how many families, proportionally, own 90% of the U.S. farmland.

  9. It’s rather misleading to hold up Mugabe as an example here. For one thing, the land being redistributed in Bolivia is idle and (thus far) government-owned, not productive and privately owned. For another, Mugabe is infamous for having perhaps the worst land “reform” package ever, one where land was seized according to race and distributed according to political connections. There have been a host of land reform schemes in world history, with a host of approaches and a host of outcomes. I have no idea how well-designed this plan in Bolivia is, but even if it’s bad I would be amazed if it’s anywhere near as putrid as Zimbabwe’s program.

  10. The article you linked makes it sound as if Morales is starting with distributing public land (an overall good thing) but will finish with the “redistribution” of the privately-held farms (a potential Zimbabwe-style disaster).

    Given his leftist pedigree and choice of friends (Chavez, Castro), I’m not terribly optimistic about the results.

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