The cow in the dining room
By Mark Baillie
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A UN article bemoans the state of livestock in Swaziland, failing to take advantage of an open EU market, and proposes all the usual State and donor interventions. But right down at the end of the article the real problem is revealed: the absence of property rights (and the writer does deserve a little credit for including this at all).
All the earlier complaints about protein, rainfall, cultural obstacles and agricultural methods are not causes but symptoms, poor practices that are forced on people because they have no security of tenure, let alone ownership, in a feudal State. Property rights are the basis of economic growth and any attempts to work without them have only created huge state enterprises and cumbersome market distortions that are doomed to failure. Here we go again.
A similar article about Zambia alleges many reasons for the decline of Zambian agriculture but does not mention the single most important factor: property rights - or the lack of rights (especially for women, in this case).
"Under the customary laws of many ethnic groups in Zambia, women have lesser property rights than men, and are often left with nothing when widowed or divorced," says Human Rights Watch.
But everyone has poor rights in the State that stole the land twice: first under socialism, when the State took everything; now under alleged reforms where the State can sell the bits it wants to anyone (regardless of the people living there) and has left the rest to "customary rights." Individual rights don't stand a chance, so agriculture doesn't stand a chance: all the State interventions suggested in this article cannot alleviate the absence of property rights and the freedom to buy and sell - that's how rich countries got rich and how successfully developing countries are developing successfuly.