Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Property rights trump 

I've read Random Penseur's interesting post on Kenya vs. Zimbabwe. What came to mind while reading it were the Index of Economic Freedom rankings for these two countries (Kenya; Zimbabwe.) Here's what the report says about property rights in Zimbabwe:
According to the U.S. Department of State, �[judicial] cases involving high or prominent ruling party or government officials usually do not reach court, regardless of the magnitude or egregiousness of the offense.� The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that the government ended its land reform program�a program that consisted of expropriating commercial farmland from white owners to give it to black peasants�at the end of 2002. Apart from being a massive violation of property rights, this program led to massive starvation since the peasants do not have the means to work the land. Since June 2000, reports the U.S. Department of State, �the Government has orchestrated a campaign of violence and intimidation against the judiciary�.�
When countries refuse to establish clear rules of the game and abide by them, GDP suffers. A colleague and I are working on research in this area right now looking at the IEF measurements. I'm probably less sanguine over Kenya than RP, because its new government doesn't seem to be much better that the virtual dictatorship under Moi, and it seems to be getting worse by the day, despite the government's claims that it will respect property rights. Zimbabwe is surely a marker of how not to go, but I don't see Kenya moving away.

This is no secret: When governments engage in corrupt practices and disrespect property rights, they also tend to hold corrupt elections. Watch this one in Ukraine.