Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Venezuelan Land Reform

Looks like some useful reforms are taking place in Venezuela:
Perhaps most important, tens of thousands of people like Lopez have been given title to land that their families have been squatting on for generations, both in poor urban slums like this one and in vast rural tracts. Using new government credits, poor families are planting crops, organizing businesses, fixing up their homes and redesigning their neighborhoods.

"There is an incredible flowering of activity in the communities that are participating," said Gregory Wilpert, an American sociologist and freelance journalist living in Venezuela who is studying the effect of Chavez's reforms. The impact of the government's efforts is still haphazard and limited. But the measures have had a ripple effect that has left many of the poor feeling that for the first time in their lives the government is actually interested in aiding them.
Giving land titles to squatters is exactly what Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has been recommending for years, both through his Institute for Liberty and Democracy and through his books (e.g., The Mystery of Capital). I'm a bit surprised that even after doing quick searches on Google and LEXIS, I can't find any mention of whether or not he is involved in the Venezuelan reforms. I'd be stunned if he wasn't, though.

On a related note, now's as good a time as any to recommend that you read the speech given by my judge (Stephen Williams) at the American Enterprise Institute on January 7, 2002. It's titled "Radical Reform: Transitions to Liberal Democracy and the Rule of Law."


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