Property Rights in Africa: More Decentralization Please

From the economist Camilla Toulmin:

While land registration is often proposed as a means of resolving disputes, the introduction of central registration systems may actually exacerbate them. Elite groups may seek to assert claims over land which was not theirs under customary law, leaving local people to find that the land they thought was theirs has been registered to someone else. The high costs of registration, in money, time, and transport, make smallholders particularly vulnerable to this.

You can read the rest of her article here [ungated version can be found here]. It goes on to elaborate upon how more decentralization is needed, as well as the need for more incorporation of indigenous legal practices. Highly recommended, but grab a cup of coffee first.

Arguments to ponder:

  1. James Buchanan’s work on public choice (elite groups seeking to capture the rent)
  2. Friedrich Hayek’s work on tacit knowledge and the inability to plan societies from the top
  3. Elinor Ostrom’s work on governing the commons and how states muddle the intricate “rules of the game”

Any thoughts? Suggestions for further reading?

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