Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why Oh Why Don't You Answer Our Calls?!?!

I guess this is good news:

CAIRO -- An Internet journal purportedly issued by Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia appeared for the first time in several months Wednesday and asked why Muslims on the Arabian Peninsula have not heeded a call to hunt down Americans.

The magazine Sawt al-Jihad, or Voice of Holy War, said its reappearance was one of the last orders of Saud Homood Obaid al-Otaibi, a wanted militant killed in a battle with security forces in the central Saudi town of Rass on April 3. Al-Otaibi was No. 7 on the Saudi government's list of the 26 most wanted militants.

The group "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," the name used by the Saudi branch of Al Qaeda, posted the journal on an Islamic Web site known as a clearinghouse for militant statements.

It is thought that the magazine was suspended because of the intensive Saudi crackdown on the group. The opening article of Wednesday's issue refers to the fighting in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and asks readers: "Those who weren't able to respond to the call of jihad, what deters you from hunting down Americans, killing the enemies of God, the crusaders and apostates in the Arabian Peninsula and other countries?"

Wait, I thought our actions over the past couple of years were supposed to inflame the Arab Steet. Perhaps they have learned that hunting Americans is a health hazard?

Update:Chrenkoff has before and after photographic proof of the health hazards. Ha!!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Fantastic New Blog

It's new to me at least, though the archives go back to September 2004. It's written by an army infantryman currently fighting in Iraq, so not only does it offer some unique insight, but it is incredibly well written. Take a trip to Iraq with this guy:
The IED exploded with a muffled boom that I felt through the soles of my boots, up through my legs and lower body and into my chest. The world was strangly silent in the seconds afterward. I glanced back at the explosion, light colored dust had been lifted off the ground by the shockwave, spreading outward in a ring - low, about a foot off the ground, just now starting to be caught by the wind and drift away. At the center a column of dirty black smoke and dust rose and fanned out into the sky. Brown black near the center, edges outlined with gray. Turning back to the line of traffic outside of the perimeter, a traffic jam that would linger for hours after we had gone.

I was worried about an attack. This could have been a decoy IED, there could be another one near by, closer to the road, larger. Or it could be the signal the begin an ambush. With the clogged line of cars, trucks, buses, carts pulled by donkeys, bikes, scooters, foot traffic an enemy could be hiding anywhere.

His accounts are about as raw and unfiltered as they get, it is certainly not for the fainthearted.
It all begins to wear on you. It makes you mean. It makes you want to hurt people and break things. It creates a nameless white hot hatred in you. All the jacking off and PT and sleep in the world will not cure it. You can talk about it all you want with your buddies, write letters, curse and scream and beat pillows, whatever, it's still inside you lurking like a beast and thrashing to be released. I wanted to be inside the house just fucking shit up. Why? Because it would have felt good. Those that understand what I'm saying know the feeling. Those that don't understand cannot understand, will never understand. They will call us monsters and Nazis, never being able to comprehend that there is hate and evil and rage inside them too. They are too afraid to look into their own dark places and acknowledge the reptile with the sharp teeth and claws that sleeps inside them too.

...I thought about my wife and family while up on that rooftop. The pain that this deployment was putting her through, she didn't work for nearly a month when I was first gone, lonely and depressed in a one bedroom apartment that, suddenly felt all to big and empty. These people we are here to fight, to kill, its one thing to make me feel lost and homesick, it's a whole other thing to visit that on my wife. Now you’re fucking with everything I care about and if I can find them I'll make them pay dearly for it. I'll give them a personal tour of what fear and pain is all about.

It reads like a book, but the writer is also vulnerable enough to let you inside the complexities of emotions and frustrations he experiences.
Getting in and slamming the door shut I looked back at them all. The mother who had given me food and her good bowel, the waving kids, and Fatima, trying to lock it all in my mind.

Days ago I was ready to burn this entire city down and now I had enough food to feed my entire team, I my very well have this families lunch in my truck. I felt something break free in my chest, it hurt, it made me long for this war to be over. Not just for me but for these kind people. My eyes stung and I swiped at them, mad at myself. How can we fight this kind of war and not go insane? On the other street, where I fell, an old man talked about,"The Day of Liberation, the day the Americans came and set us free." Why doesn't the news talk about that? Why don't the people at Home hear those stories? I have been treated with kindness much more often than I have been not here, I wish I could say the same for my treatment at Home, by my own people. More often than not I am looked down upon for being a Soldier. I've been flipped off while in uniform, called a Nazi and a storm trooper, and even been called a baby killer, I've felt the room go cold when I have told people what I do, been fired from jobs, refused jobs, because I am in the Guard. But here, where I worry every single day about somebody being killed, about me being killed I am thanked over and over again.

I don't get it.

The above samplings were taken from the first two posts of his I read. You should bookmark This is Your War and check back regularly. There aren't too many opportunities to watch history as it happens, this blog offers a fascinating glimpse to just that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Quick Poll from Iraq

Via Chrenkoff comes this poll from an Iraqi newspaper. It's pretty revealing, especially given the coverage of the April 9 supposed 'end the occupation!' protest that we heard so much about. I wish I was armed with this information when I encountered that silly protester last week. Wait, nevermind, trying to reason with unreasonable people is an exercise in futility. It would have only wasted five more minutes of my time. On to the poll:

Our special correspondent and translator Haider Ajina wants you to know about a new opinion poll from Iraq. It was published in the April 18 edition of Iraqi Arabic newspaper "Almidhar". 778 Baghdadis were asked:

"Do you support the pull out of foreign troops?

"At once - 12.56%

"According to a future timetable - 81.80%

"Do not know - 5.64%

"Has the security situation improved since the start of the new government?

"Yes - 55%

"No - 35%

"No change - 10%"
Haider also writes:

"Most of us read, heard and saw the medias report of the April 9th demonstrations in Baghdad. Most of the U.S. media portrayed it as a massive anti American demonstration in the streets of Iraq. I noticed, however, from Iraqi Arabic newspapers that most the demonstrations were against terrorism & calling for Saddam's trial & hanging (all these signs were in Arabic). I called my father in Baghdad to confirm this and he confirmed it. My father then confirmed that Al Sadr had asked his followers to demonstrate for the withdrawal of foreign troops, he also said that this group was very small and almost insignificant compared to the rest who were calling for Saddam's trial & hanging and those against terrorism. My father said the Iraqi media reported the number like this 'about 200,000 demonstrators of which 8,000-10,000 were Al-Sadr & Sunni supporters' (strange bed fellows). He also said that when he listened to the Iraqi elected officials (on live T.V.) in the assembly, that every one (every one including those Sunnis initially opposed to the elections), every man and woman assembly member, reiterated the importance of foreign and specifically U.S. troops staying in Iraq till Iraq is ready to take over its own security. Most of them expressed their thanks for the troops being there and freeing Iraqis from Saddam. This I did not read, hear or see in any U.S. mainstream media outlet.

"These are the people Iraq elected, asking us to stay and thanking us. The poll shows only 12% want us to leave at once. This makes a complete mockery of the mainstream media coverage of the demonstrations. As my wife told me when she heard the coverage on CNN: 'Haider you are going to get mad when you hear this', and I am still mad. Forgive me for rehashing this point. I feel it really needs pointing out. Iraqis are grateful for what we did and continue to be grateful for us being there."

The mainstream media fails yet again. Spread the word.

Wow, I often question whether or not I am/have been overly optimistic on Iraq. Then I read something like this and I realize the picture is just too damn complicated to boil down to one sound-bite or one narrative. There are certainly problems, it's hard to erase 30 years of authoritarian slaughter with a couple years of war, irons, and blood, but things sure are looking up. You would never know that though from reading only the mainstream media in the US. Certainly this kind of information provides important context to the random car bombings, RPG attacks, and jihad snuff film beheadings that make up the daily headlines. Who would have know that of the 200,000 demonstrators, most were demonstrating against terrorism and for Saddam's hanging?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Property Rights - The Subjective Element

The importance of property rights and the use of eminent domain seem to be turning into a regular topic here, and with good reason. The protection of those rights is not only a moral imperative but also a key to economic growth and development.

With that, here is an interesting case that the Chicago Tribune reported on earlier this week:

NAPLES, Fla. -- On a patch of rugged wilderness, with alligators, bears and an occasional panther for neighbors, a partially disabled former Navy frogman is nearing the end of a battle to save his homestead from an $8 billion plan to restore the development-battered Everglades.

As the Florida Department of Environmental Protection threatens to acquire the 160-acre property under eminent domain--a process by which a government can seize private property for public use--Jesse Hardy has refused the state's final offer of $4.5 million, and so far has not been satisfied with property offered for a land swap.

Florida officials contend that Hardy's land would be threatened by flooding under the plan. But the bearded Hardy said that a private study had determined that his land would be flood free, at 13 feet above sea level, when waters rise because of the state and federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan for Central and Southern Florida.

...."This is not the Everglades; that's a reference to that river of grass that grows 30 miles thataway," Hardy said, pointing to the ground and then to the southeast. "No, no, no, there's nothing here to restore. I'm 13 feet above sea level. There will never be a sheetflow of water here. There never was any heavy-duty standing water here."

Whether or not his land could flood doesn't seem to be the least bit relevant in terms of eminent domain and public use. Perhaps it is an implicit threat to get Hardy to give up his land? Anyway....
..."This is all I've ever had," he said. "This is all I wanted. I worked like hell to buy it. I bought it in 1976 for $60,000 because nobody else wanted it. It was solid damn rock and cabbage palms and slash pines. You can't farm on it or nothing. All I could do really good was to set up a fish farm. But there's no replacing this piece of land."

...Property rights advocates praise Hardy as a pioneering Grizzly Adams representing landowners determined to prevent governments--and their environmentalist supporters--from wresting away land from owners who deem it priceless, and to which they have strong emotional attachments.

Make no mistake, if there ever was a hero to property rights advocates, it's this guy.

When the government seizes land under eminent domain, they are required to give 'fair market value.' However, as I have written before 'fair market value' inherently under-compensates the owner. Why? Because if the owner valued his property at or below fair market value, he would have already sold it. In other words, the owner is never compensated for his subjective value of the property. Jesse Hardy is perhaps the perfect living example of this economic truism.
The state's initial offer for Hardy's land was $711,725.

....."This is our place," he said, speaking inside a small but sturdy shack that he built himself and in which he lives with a friend, Tara Hilton, and her son, Tommy, 9, whom Hardy has treated as a son since the boy's birth.

"We love it and don't want to leave it," Hardy said. "I'm not interested in their money. But with the lawyer fees and [the services of other experts], they brought us down. We don't have a damn thing now. We're just struggling, and I get paid a little bit for whatever bit of dirt we're still selling. That's what we're living on."

While asserting that his property lies on land above the proposed water flow, Hardy has offered to waive all liability for flooding, and has offered to encircle his property with an earth berm if the state will let him stay.

Many wonder why Hardy does not take the state's $4.5 million offer and establish himself in relative comfort elsewhere. But Karen Budd-Fallen, an attorney from Cheyenne, Wyo., on Hardy's legal team, said the Florida native's stand was akin to those taken by ranchers and farmers in the West and Midwest.

...."The land they have tried to trade me was worthless," he said, "and I'm too damn old now. I just can't go into homesteading again. I've got this here now. I want to finish out my life here and I would like to turn this over to my little boy and his mother so they will have something to make a living on."

A few items are revealing here. First, absent a 600+% increase in Hardy's property value over a two year period, the state clearly tried to lowball him. You can bet that this is the typical practice as the state has nothing to lose while the property owner could be risking everything. Without a clear definition of what constitutes a 'public use' the implicit message from the government is 'you better take this offer or we'll go to court, take your property anyway, and then pay you less.' A narrowing or at least a clarification of eminent domain cases would do much to head-off such government bullying.

Second, as an outside observer, this makes no sense whatsoever for a guy who is partially disabled and apparently struggling financially. Jesse Hardy should take the $4.5 million, start a trust fund for his family and buy a big chunk of land anywhere in the United States that is not in the middle of a godforsaken swamp with some human neighbors!

Right? But that is not what Jesse Hardy wants, and why should any non-cost bearing third party be allowed to preempt Jesse Hardy's decision? He knows his own tastes and preferences better than I, or the state of Florida does. He legally purchased the land, he's not harming anyone and it is obviously worth more than $4.5 million to him. The state would have to make a pretty compelling case that the land is worth more to them and the public than it is to Jesse to forcibly take his land. Or, alternatively, take advantage of this handy device called the free market and offer him even more money, at taxpayer expense of course.

Update: Looks like I waited a day or so too long to finish this post, it's already outdated. (such is life in the blogosphere) After doing a little research the fight is apparently over.
Jesse Hardy has ended his yearslong eminent domain fight with the state over land in Collier County that is part of an Everglades restoration project.

Senior Judge Jack Schoonover signed papers today approving a deal by which Hardy, 69, will receive $4.95 million for Hardy’s 160-acre homestead in Southern Golden Gate Estates, a mostly abandoned subdivision south of Interstate 75.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has tried since 2002 to negotiate a deal to buy Hardy’s land. Hardy had refused as much as $4.4 million to leave. He also rejected several land-swap offers.

...Despite the deal, Hardy said Wednesday morning that he was in "deep, deep pain" for not being able to stay on his land until he died.

Hardy said the fight with the DEP has been "a living hell." He said he wanted to make a stand for private property rights and continued to insist that the DEP doesn’t really need his land for the restoration. He said he’s through fighting.

"All I have to say is, I’ll be all right," Hardy said. "I’ve fought hard, I fought for the people of Collier County and the State of Florida. They can pick it up and run with it from there. Jesse Hardy is finished."

I guess we now know that he valued his land at roughly $4.95 million plus the avoided legal and mental costs of continuing the fight. Here's some interesting details on the compensation:
Hardy acquired his land for $60,000 in 1976. The first offer from the DEP was for $711,725 in October 2002.

The DEP then made offers of $909,000, then $1.2 million, then $1.5 million and then $4.4 million in April 2004.

The offer included $2.6 million for the land, $340,000 for him to buy another home and to relocate plus another $1.5 million.
I suppose this was as fair an outcome as could be hoped for. Obviously the land was enormously valuable to the state of Florida given their persistent increases in offers. The fact remains that with $4.4 million staring him in the face, Hardy still told the state to go scratch. He's a walking economic definition of subjective value. A property rights hero indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Protesting Cats

Caterpillar is having their shareholders meeting in our building today. They sell bulldozers to Israel who of course bulldoze the houses of suicide bombers. That makes Caterpillar part of the International Zionist Conspiracy. So that brings out the protesters of course. There is a bunch of them outside our building screaming about how Israel is a killer and chanting "ISRAEL KILLED RACHEL CORRIE!" They have someone dressed as a grim reaper. There is a counter protest across the street holding such signs as "No solidarity with terrorism" and waving American and Israeli flags. The consensus in the office here is that the protesters need a shower. I guess their message isn't particularly clear.

Anyway, during lunch I walked outside to look around, a guy holding a national socialist paper approached me and showed me the cover.

Him: 300,000 Iraqis protested our occupation of Iraq over the weekend!

Me: Yeah, but 8,000,000 voted in January.


Me: Protest is patriotoc, you should know that. They are only being patriotic.


Now I'm back at my desk.

I wish I had my camera phone with me..... I'll update later if anything exciting happens on my way home.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

April 9th Redux

This past Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed to a beautiful day and grabbed the morning paper off my front porch. The date at the top said April 9, 2005 and for some reason, it rung a bell. Why? Was it someone's birthday? In a sense it could be, perhaps this day April 9, will eventually come to mark the rebirth of a civilization. Saddam Hussein represented an obstacle that History was having a difficult time overcoming. I think back on that day, April 9, 2003 and I remember the big Iraqi muscle man hammering away at The Statue's base, but it wouldn't come down. So the US Marines stepped in and gave it a pull, they give History another push as it were, and the statue fell, and the people cheered. I'll never forget that muscle man, or the children pulling the statue's head through the streets, beating it with their shoes. Despite the difficult times ahead and the bloody insurgency that was to follow, they wanted this. Re-reading some of my thoughts, and more importantly those of some of the Iraqi blogs from last April 9, (and even those from April 9, 2003) reaffirmed this. You can find that post with all its links here. Read that first, then come back for a sampling what some of those same guys are saying this April 9.

Ali gets a bit poetic:

Two years now and "they" still wonder
And "they" still ask Was it worth it?
Was it right?

Two years and it seems to me Like it was yesterday
Two years and "they" keep trying
To silence the voice inside us
Yet it only grows louder

I was once free When I was a kid
But when I grew up
I couldn't be the man I am
I couldn't be the kid I was
And I couldn't flee

Two years since I finally became
The man in me, and the kid in me.
And "they" want to take this away?
"They" would have to kill them both first
The man and the kid
And turn the clock back around
And still "they" can't change me back

Two years since I stopped weeping
Inside of me, day and night
Two years since the widow
Found her husband's body
In a feast of death for the human death lord.
Two years since the orphan
knew Where his father lied
And now they finally have peace
And they have a future
No matter how painful it is to go on
And their dreams still go on

Two years since I started dreaming
Dreams that have a chance
And are becoming true
Two years since I regained my heart
And then I found her...
And she found me...
And the world looked beautiful!
And "they" think they can separate us?!
Think again, or keep wishing.

Read the rest.

Mohammed at Iraq the Model had this to say:

I don't think I need to tell you how close is the 9th of April to my heart. And now, after two years happiness is still the same for me; one person among millions who were freed on that great day.

The 9th of April had turned one of the darkest pages in our history and opened the door wide before the people and their dreams, just as when the idol was knocked down, fear and oppression were knocked down as well.

No day matches you, my brightest day. We will keep reaping your fruits while the entire neighborhood follow your light and wait for other days like you to sweep away the remaining rotten idols.

The 9th of April has proven that the free world now has the guts and the required determination to make the change and throw the legacy of the past century behind its back; dictators shall be endorsed no more and the struggle will continue until humanity is freed from its dark nightmare that lasted way longer than it should have.

The winds of change that have blown away the tyrant in Iraq have begun to reach more and more people everyday and the heroic stand of Iraqis is inspiring freedom lovers in Beirut and Cairo, Kuwait and Bahrain, Arabia and Damascus; people are screaming enough is enough; enough for tyranny, enough for repression and enough for slavery.

Some naysayers and losers will say that terror had marked the past two years in Iraq but we the Iraqis believe that terrorism is merely the defeated remnants of evil fed by the other tyrants who got terrified from the fall of their demonic master. They're holding onto a weak thread that will soon be broken no matter how hard they try.

Today we can see the idol of terror shaking and losing balance from the powerful strike Iraqis had given it on the glorious election day; the day when the world stood amazed before the extraordinary bravery of Iraqis defying fear and walking through bullets and bombs to say their word and give terror the purple finger.

The 9th of April paved the way for that historic revolution and I think this is more than enough to make us keep this day in our hearts forever.

We have passed the cruel tests of terror, we went to cast our ballots and we're rebuilding what was destroyed and we're looking forward to building more and more but most important is that we're going to write our holy book, our constitution, by ourselves to preserve our freedom and stop tyranny from invading our land again.

After decades of isolation enforced by Saddam on Iraq, today Iraqis come back to join the free world and catch up with what they had missed; slowly but surely.

Some shortsighted people doubt the outcome of this day and think that it's not suitable to announce it a success but we say to them:
You're free to think whatever you like, we got on the train, but you’re standing still.
Read the rest.

Finally here are some reflective thoughts from an Iraqi expat living in London.
My eyes filled with tears of joy as I watched Saddam statue being toppled. The dictator was finally toppled. Is this really happening or am I dreaming? My hands were still shaking, my eyes tearing and my heart was still palpitating. I couldn't work that day.

...That was the day that I will never forget, the day when Saddam was toppled, the day when Saddam fell. It was not the fall of Baghdad, Baghdad never fell, Baghdad was liberated; it was the birth of hope and the fall of the dictator, the fall of devil, the fall of the butcher of Iraq, the fall of god's most merciless creatures, the fall of Saddam.

It needed a push, but History is on the move. Could any of this have even been imaginable in the fall of 2001? Women in Afghanistan were subject to beatings for appearing in public without the escort of men, now they are holding positions of government. Transitioning from bloody theocracy to tolerant democracy was never going to be easy, but when I take a look around at today's Middle East, the relative (albeit fragile) calm in Israel, civil disobedience in Lebanon, successful elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, well, you can color me optimistic.

Here's to centuries worth of April 9ths!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Thought of the Day

Not from me, this one is from Wretchard and on one of my favorite subjects - how technology is changing the role of information in society.

My own view is that as the world becomes more dependent on information, the cost of purposely maintaining error grows ever higher. It is becoming too expensive to maintain an elaborate lie. The effort necessary to maintain apparent consistency with verifiable information simply grows to high too be worth it. Any database professional knows that the principal strategic danger to information assets is not a physical crash; there are recovery strategies to deal with that. The strategic danger is bad data. A company can recover from a server crash in a few hours; but it can never recover from persistently inaccurate information about its own operations. No information professionals except politicians will knowingly admit self-deception into their sanctum. And the Internet will make them pay the price for that.

I have written much in the past about the role of information. The short of it is that information is a valuable commodity that is bought and sold, however with the rise of technology, just about every piece of information is available at extremely low cost to anyone with internet access, which is to say - almost everyone. That is why conspiracy theories always remain just that, theories. If they were true they would have already been uncovered. For good or ill, there are simply too many interested eyes out there to keep anything, especially in the realm of politics, a secret.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Beautiful Thing

Just friggin' beautiful:
BAGHDAD, April 6 (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein watched the election of Iraq's new president on video on Wednesday and was shaken by what he saw, the country's human rights minister said.

"He was clearly upset. He realised that it was over, that a democratic process had taken place and that there was a new, elected president," Bakhtiar Amin told Reuters.

"It was not just the fact that there was a new president, but that the president was a Kurd. And the previous interim president became a vice-president. What's more, it all happened without bloodshed," he said.

Iraq's parliament earlier elected Jalal Talabani, a veteran Kurdish leader, as president. Ghazi Yawar, the previous president, became one of two vice-presidents.

Saddam watched a video recording of the election, broadcast live on Iraqi television, in his prison cell at Camp Cropper, a U.S.-run high security facility on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Later, 11 of his senior lieutenants, including two half-brothers and former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, watched the same video together, Amin said.

It was the first television that Saddam and his former deputies had seen since being taken into custody.

Because they watched a recording of the live transmission, which also contained a rolling strap of news across the bottom of the screen, Saddam was able to catch up on various news items from around the world, the minister said.

He said seeing the footage is likely to have hammered home to the former president and his deputies that Iraq has moved on since they were captured.

But Amin, a Kurd who was forced to flee Iraq under Saddam, said it could have an even greater impact.

"I feel this will affect how they respond when they go to trial," he said. "Now they know a government's being formed, a democratically elected government, they know for sure that they are not coming back and my feeling is that they may be inclined to be more honest when they go before the tribunal."

Saddam and his 11 top aides are due to go to trial later this year, although the process is expected to begin with one of his lieutenants.

Amin, who specifically asked for a television to be put in Saddam's cell so he could watch the election, said he may also be allowed to watch Talabani's swearing in ceremony on Thursday. On Friday, Iraq's new prime minister should be sworn in.

"We wanted the former dictator to know that Iraq has moved on, that there's a new Iraq, and that he is not part of it," Amin said, relishing the irony.
I am so glad this bastard was captured alive.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dead Capital and Third World Poverty

Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed, but not because of anything unique to Zimbabweans. Once again, tragedy in Africa is due to corrupt government action and a failure to protect fundamental necessities of capital institutions. Roger Bate reports:

When I first visited Zimbabwe in 1996, $1US would buy about $8Zimbabwe (Z$8). When I was there last November, $1 would get you Z$7000 at the official rate, but Z$12,000 when traded on the black market (with those desperate to get hard currency in another country). Today's bank notes are printed on only one side and with an expiration date; bank collapses occur on a regular basis; not surprisingly, unemployment is about 80 percent, and the economy has halved in the past five years.

But what is the fundamental reason for the recent collapse in Zimbabwe? It is not the loss of freedom of the press, or unsound monetary policy, or high military expenditure from fighting wars in other countries that benefit cronies, or low health expenditure -- although all these factors have a negative impact.

No, the real reason that Zimbabwe has collapsed is that there is no protection of private property. The executive rides roughshod over the judiciary in all matters of property. The result is "dead capital" -- a term invented by Hernando de Soto -- and total economic annihilation. The economy is now worth barely more than one percent (in US$ terms) of its value in 2000, when the Mugabe regime's "land reform" program, in which they appropriated farms and land-holdings from private owners, really started.

In short, Zimbabwe provides the reverse of the good news offered by De Soto. In The Mystery of Capital, De Soto exhaustively demonstrated that where private property rights are delineated and enforced, economies can grow rapidly. When someone can borrow against his one large asset (for nearly everyone this is his home) he can establish a business, buy supplies, establish marketing programs, sell products and make a profit and thrive.

For some countries the vast majority of capital is dead -- one cannot prove one owns it outright, and hence no capital market will lend against it. For example in the mid-1990s when De Soto was asked by President Hosni Mubarak to assess the situation in Egypt, De Soto found that 90% of the capital was dead. Today the situation is slowly improving as more and more people can prove they own their property.

If one can't prove they own their property, then one really doesn't own that property in any meaningful sense at all. In nations where property rights are protected, every piece of land, equipment, building, etc. is legally represented by some sort of 'deed.' Because of this, property can lead a sort of parallel existence acting as collateral for credit in addition to its material existence. A homeowner’s mortgage, for example, is the single largest source for funds in new business ventures. Property rights provide a link to a borrower's credit history, as well as a real accountable address for debt collection.

I've written in the past that property rights are just as important as the other inalienables. One big reason that individuals living in more advanced, free market societies have a much higher living standard is because they have the ability and the available institutions (mortgage lenders, banks, etc.) to go into debt. Imagine where you would be if, when you purchased a car, you had to pay for it up front. Then imagine having to do such for a house - only the wealthy would have access to property.

Without the paper trail of ownership it is near impossible to trade these assets. The efforts that would be required for a lender to discern the basics of a transaction in Zimbabwe would be prohibitive. Does the seller really own the real estate and the right to put it up as collateral? Is there another with a claim on the property? And even if ownership could be proved at a reasonable cost, there are obviously no gurantees that a government like Zimbabwe’s will enforce the ownership. Rather than property/real estate/capital generating wealth, government policy has rendered it dead, which of course leads to stagnation and no hope of investment influx.

What the third world needs, is international trade, it needs to be an attractive place for corporations to locate and expand. Enforcement of property rights is a neccessary prerequisite to attract investment and develop and nurture the institutions that create opportunity for its populous to climb out of poverty. Poverty stricken third world citizens do not need bored teenagers from mature democracies protesting 'Globalization' on their behalf, as Thomas Sowell has so eloquently stated:
Those who vent their moral indignation over low pay for Third World workers employed by multinational companies ignore the plain fact that these workers' employers are usually supplying them with better opportunities than they had before, while those who are morally indignant on their behalf are providing them with nothing.


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