Yes? And?

For the past decade, the corn farmers of this village in southern Guatemala managed to scratch out two harvests of maize a year from the 10 hectares (24.7 acres) of land they rent. But the crop they planted in May will be their last.

\”We no longer have land to grow on because the owners of the land told us that this will be our last harvest there,\” says Moisés Morales, president of the Amanecer farmers\’ association. Sugar cane growers, they were told, had offered double the rent that the corn growers paid. The corn farmers couldn\’t match the price.

Being able to pay more rent is a signla that plam or cane farming is more profitable than corn farming. Thus the land is being moved from a lower value use to a higher. This is the very definition of wealth creation.

The problem
is what?

16 comments on “Yes? And?

  1. I look forward to the day when bog roll manufacturers price The Guardian out of newsprint, personally.

  2. The lady who wrote the article was funded by Oxfam.

    Oxfam has repeatedly stated its desire that poor people in third world countries should not be allowed to escape from subsistence farming and the inevitable poverty that goes with it.

    Oxfam has a highly romanticised, possibly racist, fantasy of grinning black and brown people merrily tilling the earth using hand tools and organic fertiliser, and gratefully fawning over the Tamsins, Poppys, and Arabellas of Oxfam when they deign to distribute the handouts on which the natives will forever depend.

    So basically Oxfam is the British welfare state, gone global. And where would the welfare state be if it ran out of clients?

  3. Plus also the baddies are sugar cane growers, and Big Sugar to Guardianistas is rapidly approaching the scale of Evil Adversaryness that is Big Tobacco, both tobacco and sugar being mainly vices of the working classes and hence fair game.

  4. Do have a little sympathy with the Guatemala farmers. Lot of these ex-Spanish colonies are only a step away from feudal. Conquistatores went over, expropriated everything in sight & set themselves up as hereditary barons. Peasants have to pay rent on what would, in Europe, be their own land. There’s no real property rights because they’re never going to be in the position to buy it & exercise any.

  5. it’s hardly a controversial idea that productivity improvements have adjustment costs, with winners and losers. It just depends how bad the costs are. reductio ad absurdem suppose “land being moved from a lower value use to a higher” involved the incumbent renters being shot, would you still be asking: “The problem is what?” No. So all that’s left is haggling over the price, as they say. There is some level of hardship for those maize farmers that would be a “problem”

  6. Bloke in spain

    You’ve given me pause for thought, which is certainly more than the marxist twats at Oxfam ever do.

    I think though you are reallybdescribing historical injustice. One, however, which may still need active correction and which certainly continues to fuel the fire of marxist rhetoric.

    Otherwise I really can’t add anything at all to Steve’s comment. Think Olympic opening ceremony, rosy cheeked girls catching apples in their skirts…before that nasty industrial revolution.

  7. I’m with Luis and BIS here. Land reform is a useful step in development (as long as it doesnt become a continual cycle of theft) since it gives capital to allow the farmers to better themselves and also to pay for education for the kids that do not inherit so that the country as a whole becomes better off.

  8. @Ironman
    Given you pause for thought? Good. G/f comes from a place like this. Shack her family have lived in for a couple generations stands on land they don’t own. One day Medellin will wish to increase the size of its smart residential suburbs or build an industrial park or a dry ski slope & the owner will want to raise the land from a lower to higher value. So they’ll be bulldozed.
    It’s why Bolivarian socialism looks so attractive to these people. Not saying that’ll help them because the comrades are about as interested in their welfare as the Dons.

  9. Bloke in spain

    Yes, understood. So there is a looming potential injustice.

    I do know of property rights being formalised in shanty towns in and around Lima in Peru to counter exactly these sorts of outrages. The effects, I am told, are spectacular.

    I just think though we need to distinguish between genuine, identifiable property rights and historic ‘wrongs’ that require ‘collective restitution’. We are all where we are and must live for today’s and tomorrow’s citizens.

  10. Out of interest, is the increased demand for sugar a free market driven one, or one driven by regulations mandating a set level of biofuel?

  11. I’m waiting for Van_Patten to spout that worstall has a mental illness.

    Worstall’s posts become increasingly shrill. One trick pony and that, yeah.

  12. Having agreed that there are historic injustices and modern day property rights iisues (probably to say the least), the basic premise of the post still stands up. Indeed I would argue that a properly functioning system that recognises property rights would facillitate the transfer of land from lower to higher value use.

  13. Not being the owner of gigantic agribusiness, I cannot imagine
    why TW Is defending the shoving of people off their land to allow for the cultivation of export crops. These are not going to feed the locals and not only will the crops be exported but the returns also ,via the myriad subsidiaries agribusinesses have , which practice TW also staunchly defends. Like as not ,such countries will have to import foodstuffs, just like the UK,putting themselves on the rack of laissez faire economics ,which operates like old-style colonialism minus the Maxim guns and d battleships.It is not just Oxfam that does n’t think much of all this: there are Food Security and Via Campesina movements in the client countries that would rather grow their own food and control their own resources as the article mentions, unnoticed by TW.
    Why does TW always support the giant cartels rather than small scale business?.

  14. Thank goodness we have Arsenald to restore a bit of sanity among all of Tim’s shrillness. He’s a card, isn’t he?

    The problem, of course, with the Guatemalan land being moved from a lower value to a higher value is that the current occupiers of that land will not capture any of the increase in aggregate wealth. Why? Because they lack title to the land. This is the perennial situation that makes reduction in Third World economies such a refractory problem. Security of tenure is a magic bullet for growth because it enables so many other beneficial effects, not least of which is access to loan capital. If Oxfam et al. supported transfer of property from latifundia to smaller owners (by market means and not by expropriation, natch) then they’d be a force for good. As it is, they’re part of the problem.

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