Monday, December 3, 2012

Another Look at Property Rights

After nine weeks of SWEET Scholars meetings, and a semester of political economy, I’ve come to realize that property rights are king. Many economic problems come down to the stability of property rights. After watching the PBS mini-series the Commanding Heights, I also realized that one of the biggest problems with communism wasn’t just the lack of incentives, but rather it was the lack of property rights.

Personal property is one of the greatest incentives in our modern world. Without property rights, workers or “land owners” have no reason to invest in their property. Without any investment or development of their capitol, progress is constricted and economic growth is stunted. One of the key principles of economics is that economic growth leads to an increasing standard of living.  One of the key problems in developing nations is the lack of secure property rights for citizens. Musa (Sherri’s TA originally from Tanzania) talked about some of the struggles that people in sub-Saharan African countries face. Without governments that are strong enough to enforce property rights, many local African tribal chiefs delegate property to their “constituents.” But, without any security, the “constituents” never bother to develop their land.

This is a very destructive cycle, and it seems to be plaguing too many developing countries. While I’m not advocating an authoritarian or overly-powerful government, I do feel that one of the government’s key roles is to protect property rights. I’m sure that if all African citizens were certain their property was safe, we would start to see both development and standard of living rise within their respective countries. 

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