Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, October 03, 2005

Kelo Visits Gaza:
the arrogance of central planning

Remember the Kelo case? It's an eminent domain case in which private property is being condemned for commercial development. For intelligent analysis of the case, I recommend these items by Kip Esquire.

The arrogance of central planners, that they think they know best what the value of things is and how best to use society's scarce resources, is appalling. It looks as if this arrogance is being replayed in Gaza, where the land claims of dispossessed residents are being ignored and trampled by the new gubmnt there [thanks to Jack for the pointer]:

When her property was taken, Khalaf was building a house on it. She and her sons want to resume construction, open a seaside restaurant and cultivate the rest of the land.

... But the Palestinian Authority has different plans. It wants to build high-rise apartments, universities and new farms on the ruins of the Israeli settlements and says land expropriated by Israel will not automatically be returned to its owners.
Somebody [Bill Gates? George Soros? (hah!)] should take the leaders of the Palestinian Authority on a tour of all the failed gubmnt projects in the former Soviet Union. Somebody should take these leaders on a tour of the disastrous housing projects in the urban centres of the US. And then somebody should take these leaders on tours of areas where well-defined property rights and economic freedom have led to phenomenal economic growth: Sinapore, Hong-Kong, Houston, Santiago, Tel Aviv, etc. (or the comparative successes in Dubai and the UAE). Even the rapid growth in the former soviet union countries that embraced property rights and economic freedom is instructive (e.g. the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Czeck Republic).

"We have a plan: that all the lands (appropriated) in Gaza be used for public good," Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said recently.
How disappointing. I guess he never read (or understood) anything by Adam Smith, eh? Anyone who professes to take control of scarce resources so they can be used for the "public good" is either a knave or a fool. And maybe a bit of both. The arrogance of this sophomoric approach must be deflated if Gaza is to have any hope for economic development.

Even before the Israeli pullout from Gaza earlier this month, he decreed that the government would take control of all lands and assets that Israel left behind.

His decision was meant to dispel concerns that settlement land would be distributed unfairly and that senior government officials would benefit personally.
But surely putting these lands in the hands of bureaucrats will enhance the power of those bureaucrats, personally. Such pronouncements are worse than naive.

If Gaza and the Palestinian Authority wish to promote economic growth, they must develop a sense that property rights are strong, enforceable, and easily traded. Until they do that, they will continue mostly living off handouts and international extortion.
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