Jun 26, 2009
I read a very interesting article in the Washington Post last week. There is a lesson to be learned if you think about it.
The headline read, “In Venezuela, Land `Rescue' Hopes Unmet.” President Hugo Chavez is systematically confiscating the farms and ranches from the families that have operated them for more than 100 years. He then divides the farms into many small parcels for small farmers to operate. This land redistribution is termed “rescue” and the objective is “food sovereignty” – to reduce food imports. However, five years after the process was launched, imports are six times higher than they were before – importing $7.5 billion worth of food last year. Hugo Chavez, to this day, is still in the process of stealing land from families that were operating efficient commercial farms and ranches. Just weeks ago, the government took 20 farms in Aragua.
One 33,000-acre ranch produced 3.3 million pounds of beef per year. Today, the 13,000 herd of cattle that once roamed the fields are gone. The replacement farmers operating the land have just a few cattle and a little corn. Most of the productive land is wasted.
Chavez stated just a few weeks ago, “I say to all who say they own land: In the first place, that land is not yours. The land is not private. It is the property of the state.” Think about this. The countries around the world that have failed miserably are the countries where the state has stolen the land from the rightful owners.
We can begin with Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. That dictator stole the land, redistributed it, and now the people are starving. The former Communist countries all over the world are in the process of privatizing their farms because that’s necessary to increase production. Ukraine and Russia are important examples. I was in Cuba in March. The government controls everything there, and – not surprising – they have to import 80% of their food. We have people here in the United States that rail against commercial farms. They want more regulation, government control. Private property rights are not in their vocabulary. They think little one-donkey farms are the way to go.
If we keep an eye on Venezuela, we can see what not to do.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.