Monday, July 19

Marx Reloaded (not Groucho)

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
Groucho Marx

"The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
Karl Marx

"I have never heard of any convincing reason as to why we should privatize land”
Meles Zenawi

it is an "inappropriate and grave mistake" the attempt by some groups to liken revolutionary democracy (the state ideology of the Ethiopian ruling party) with communism"
Ethiopian Ruling Party Official

The Right to Property is the concern of Article 40 of the Ethiopian Constitution.

The regular Dictionary definition of property is A. Something owned; a possession. B. A piece of real estate. C. Something tangible or intangible to which its owner has legal title. D. Possessions considered as a group.

Here we are concerned with part B. Land. The Sub-Articles of Article 40 relevant to actual ownership of land are below.

(1) Every Ethiopian citizen has the right to the ownership of private property. Unless prescribed otherwise by law on account of public interest, this right shall include the right to acquire, to use and, in a manner compatible with the rights of other citizens, to dispose of such property by sale or bequest or to transfer it otherwise.
Great! people have the right to own property! So what's the problem?
(2) "Private property", for the purpose of this article, shall mean any tangible or intangible product which has value and is produced by the labour, creativity, enterprise or capital of an individual citizen, associations which enjoy juridical personality under the law, or in appropriate circumstances, by communities specifically empowered by law to own property in common.
Well, own any kind of property except for land... The bit about property having to be produced sounds a bit off as well...
(3) The right to ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia. Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange.
Oh, the State owns all land.

Interestingly, the concept that
The state is the means whereby the ruling class forcibly maintains its rule over the other classes
is one of the core ideas of Karl Marx

Ownership of land and the disenfranchisement of those on the land is, of course, a familiar means of exerting control. This is true across the span of time and the globe from the American frontier to feudal Europe and onto Roman latifunda.

State ownership is a classic characteristic of social orders inspired by Karl Marx and Lenin. Socialism may often have a variety of gray areas with the land issue. However, Soviet and Maoist (pre-Deng) style Communism is clearly reflected in Article 40; it utterly rejects any form of private ownership of land.

By the way, the names of Karl Marx and Lenin as well as the term 'Communism' are used here not to be pejorative but to be descriptive. They had some very interesting things to say and the latter is a worthy topic of discussion. Sadly, it is our observation that societies in which their names and ideology are particularly valued do share some unappealing characteristics; we simply see that they are usually not democratic nor prosperous.

The Ethiopian government calls its economic and social program 'Revolutionary Democracy'. Officials affirm that Ethiopia's
economic objective remains to be the establishment of a capitalist economic system.
It seems this is to be done without some of the basic prerequisites of a capitalist economic system. Frankly, the term 'Revolutionary Democracy' when Googled is not inspiring when used in the context of establishing a capitalist economic system - more on this in the future.

In our opinion the suffocating dead weight of the first three sub-articles largely negates the rest of Article 40 but to be fair please go ahead and read them. We doubt that the rest of Article 40 would mean much for 'the little guy' when voting the wrong way or challenging authority. Remember, confiscation is only a bureaucrat's whim away.

One last quote for the road
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
If you guessed Groucho you are correct!

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