When Governments Go Awry

The American Thinker posted an article today about what is happening in South Africa. South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa and his political party are planning to amend to South African Constitution to allow the taking of farmland owned by white residents of the country without compensation. Cyril Ramaphosa¬† regards this as the last step on the country’s program of land reform.

According to a BBC report:

The country’s white minority is believed to have a disproportionate hold over land, with a few thousand white commercial farmers possessing the most fertile lands.

Somehow I don’t think this is going to work.

The article at The American Thinker points out the history of this sort of action:

Ramaphosa may think it’s money-for-nothing to legislate his way into free land for the people whose support he wants down the line, but it doesn’t work that way. The expropriated farms will soon be ravaged, just as they were in Stalin’s Ukraine or Chavez’s Venezuela, not to mention, Mugabe’s utterly miserable Zimbabwe right next door, and South Africa, too, will become a wasteland. It all looks real nice right now, but the change over just a few years after this move will be amazing.

I saw it myself in Venezuela, where ravaged sugar fields in Cojedes state, out on the llano, were on one half of the roadside, the expropriated-land half, with miserable looking people sitting under a half-tent with a ragged Venezuelan flag flying overhead. On the other side, there was a still crisp, clean, working sugar farm, obviously the next target. Private ownership, vs. public expropriation were visible with one glance. Bloomberg did a piece on the same horror in neighboring Portuguesa state in 2017.

For whatever reason, people appreciate things more when they have to earn them. Also, if people are suddenly given a large commercial farm, will they have the knowledge and ability to run it? That is the problem. When Venezuela took over the American oil wells, the government did not have the ability to keep the oil wells repaired and in good working order. The oil production of Venezuela began to drop shortly after the government took over the oil wells. We can expect the same thing to happen with the large commercial farms in South Africa.

I understand that South Africa has had some racial problems and people have not always been treated well. However, stealing land from people who have worked hard to farm it is not the answer. It might make more sense to compensate the farmers for part of their land and create a cooperative to help the new owners of  farms learn how to work the land. By allowing the current farmers to keep a large part of their land, you insure that the economy will be sustained as it goes through the change of helping the South Africans learn to work their part of the land.