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The fallacy of land redistribution

03 July 2013, 10:58

The idea of land distribution for many is an interesting one predicated on the idea that someone obtained land unfairly and therefore should be forced to return that land. This has led to a number of news24 posters making statements such as "we will take back all the land stolen from our ancestors etc" and people advocating Zimbabwe style land grabs.

The problem with all this is that the current landowner was more than likely not the perpetrator of the original crime, nor were they the beneficiaries.

Lets take this example :

Many years ago someone took a piece of land from someone else unfairly because the government of the day created laws which allowed it. People were evicted unfairly and the land was effectively stolen from them. Let us say that the person who took the land is named Bob NoSurname.

So Bob lived on the land for a long time, and at some stage a young person offered to purchase that land. We will name him "Idealist Farmer". "Idealist Farmer" paid full market value for that land to Bob - there was no theft here at all.

Bob walked away wealthy and "Idealist Farmer" believed he/she had purchased a legitimate piece of land at a fair price. Later in life that farmer became old and sold that land yet again to another farmer - for the market value of the land. And so it has continued .... with many people selling, splitting and essentially land ownership changing over time. In all cases except the very first people paid the full price for the land.

So now we fast forward to today and we ask - do Zimbabwe style land grabs punish the person who perpetrated the original crime ? Or do they create yet another set of victims who have been cheated by the very same kind of barbaric laws that allow people to literally steal from each other, and are perpetuating the idea that theft is ok if the government says it is ?

You tell me.

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