Disaster in Zimbabwe

I am a little late linking this, but the world is in the midst of one of those pure, tightly controlled experiments to demonstrate the true price of socialism.  And, as usual, no one will learn from it.  Via Jane Galt:

It is depressing to look back at history and see how regularly the same
nice-sounding idea--"let's take the land from the rich people who unjustly own
it and give it to those who need it"--turns into tragedy for everyone. It's even
more depressing to realise that despite the seeming predictibility of the
result, lots of people want to do it anyway.

The Atlantic, which she quote in a follow up post, has more detail:

Mugabe decided on what he called "fast-track land reform" only in February of
2000, after he got shocking results in a constitutional referendum: though he
controlled the media, the schools, the police, and the army, voters rejected a
constitution he put forth to increase his power even further. A new movement was
afoot in Zimbabwe: the Movement for Democratic Change"”a coalition of civic
groups, labor unions, constitutional reformers, and heretofore marginal
opposition parties. Mugabe blamed the whites and their farm workers (who,
although they together made up only 15 percent of the electorate, were enough to
tip the scales) for the growth of the MDC"”and for his humiliating rebuff.

So he played the race card and the land card. "If white settlers just took
the land from us without paying for it," the President declared, "we can, in a
similar way, just take it from them without paying for it." In 1896 Africans had
suffered huge casualties in an eighteen-month rebellion against British pioneers
known as the chimurenga, or "liberation war." The war that brought Zimbabwean
blacks self-rule was known as the second chimurenga. In the immediate aftermath
of his referendum defeat Mugabe announced a third chimurenga, invoking a valiant
history to animate a violent, country-wide land grab...

The drop-off in agricultural production is staggering. Maize farming, which
yielded more than 1.5 million tons annually before 2000, is this year expected
to generate just 500,000 tons. Wheat production, which stood at 309,000 tons in
2000, will hover at 27,000 tons this year. Tobacco production, too, which at
265,000 tons accounted for nearly a third of the total foreign-currency earnings
in 2000, has tumbled, to about 66,000 tons in 2003.

Mugabe's belief that he can strengthen his flagging popularity by destroying
a resented but economically vital minority group is one that dictators elsewhere
have shared. Paranoid about their diminishing support, Stalin wiped out the
wealthy kulak farming class, Idi Amin purged Uganda's Indian commercial class,
and, of course, Hitler went after Jewish businesses even though Germany was
already reeling from the Depression. Whatever spikes in popularity these moves
generated, the economic damage was profound, and the dictators had to exert
great effort to mask it.

Overall, the country has gone from a net exporter of food to outright famine.  For this particular experiment, I am happy to live in the control group.  Stay tuned, as this show is likely to hit the road soon and move to Venezuela

  • http://chocolateandgoldcoins.blogspot.com Michael H.

    Hi Coyote
    I'm fairly familiar with the tragic Zimbabwe situation in that I have been following since 2000. The land takeover was pure politics, not at all economics. The land was stolen by and for Mugabe's cronies. Pure cleptocracy.

    What a mess Mugabe has made of his country. The white population has plummeted to only a few tens of thousands. Soon, he won't be able to blame anybody but himself for the mess he has made.

  • http://americaninlebanon.blogspot.com/ Matthew

    Unfortunately, these kinds of delusional public policies don't generally admit defeat. I'm waiting for the "malicious external forces" and "American plots" to be blamed for the economic collapse. Whatever the scapegoat, you can be sure he won't take the blame for his failed strategy.