Two Private Property Stories

First, the triumph of private property in West Bengal, India:

The [Communist Party of India-Marxist] CPI-M won Bengali hearts and minds through “Operation Barga” in 1978 that awarded tenancy rights to poor sharecroppers (called “bargadars”) who tilled farms.  .  .  .

This was not full land reform, since the tenants did not gain ownership rights. Yet the Communists’ move to record and hand bargadars certificates of tenancy represented real progress. It expanded farm productivity, as well as sharecroppers’ freedom. Rights to tenancy also raised expectations of full property rights some day.  .  .  .

In truth, the Communists never planned to grant full property rights, and not just because it violated a fundamental tenet of their ideology. Operation Barga was designed to leave villagers politically beholden to the party. Awarding title, so a bargadar could one day sell his land and move on, would have defeated the strategy.  .  .  .

The combination of partial land reform and complete political control came back to haunt the Communists in the past decade. By 2001, the fruits of capitalism had started to become apparent, especially at the state level where chief ministers competed for investment and jobs.

As people began to see these fruits of private property, the power of the Communists declined and eventually they were defeated.  Private property allowed the people of West Bengal to succeed.

Second, the failure of Salamanca, NY:

In a valley that curves along the Allegheny River is a tract of land built on opportunity, greed and the bureaucratic nightmare of being one city in two nations.

According to state and local authorities, Salamanca is the only U.S. city on an Indian reservation.  .  .  .

Acts of Congress in 1875, 1890 and 1990 created a landlord-tenant relationship between the Seneca Nation and Salamanca’s homeowners and businesses.

Homeowners and businesses occupied their properties in accordance with a 99-year lease originally granted by the Seneca Nation in 1892. It expired on Feb. 19, 1991 .  .  .  15 property “owners” eventually were evicted by the Seneca Nation.

Today, shabbiness blankets what could be a quaint river town, a state park and a national forest. Garish “Nation-owned” cigarette outlets and gas stations produce a city drawn by Norman Rockwell but touched up by Jackson Pollock.  .   .  .

The result, in Salamanca as elsewhere, is sweeping, perhaps irreversible, economic and social devastation.

By contrast, here in the United States, the failure to enact private property reforms has seemingly doomed this unique city.

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