20 Jul 2012

Missing the point

I've co-authored a chapter on "land grabs" [pdf] in which we question the accuracy of this populist wording. Isn't foreign direct investment good? How can you tell the difference between a "bad grab" and "good FDI"?

Well, some people are more sure of themselves, as you can see in this slide.

That definition, unfortunately, excludes voluntary exchanges in markets, i.e., trade. How did the authors of this definition not see their error? Most of them are neo-marxists who do not trust markets.


  1. I'm excited to read your chapter, based on the first few line that distinguish (a) that land grabs have been going on for a long time, and that (b) calling them grabs makes it sound as though no compensation was transferred. This can definitely lead to distortions in the perceived "rightness" of an action.
    Have you read Fred Pearce's book on the topic?

  2. Does 'grabbing' have a negative connotation? Is voluntary trade a bad thing? Or are the consequences of the (legal) grabbing bad?
    Again: what are we talking about? Apparently different people discuss different things, using different definitions.
    That's why we hear 'experts' state that climate changes four times a year.

    About 'missing the point': what is the water footprint of this website, and what is the water footprint of discussions about the water footprint? Now economize this and calculate how many girls have not been able to go to school because of this. Next, recalibrate your priorities.

  3. @Pat -- no, I haven't read his book, but it's on my desk to review.

    @Anon -- Yes, you're right. You're also confusing :)

  4. David, you miss the basic point which the authors are trying to address: some part of our water use - yes ours, yours, mine and everyone on the planet is essential to life - both biological and social = if an economic and political system can be built which accurately partitions the essential water from the discretionary, prior to transfers - then one can calm the fears of those who oppose grabs. so far our legal system has not solved this dilemma, and a pure market system has no way to do so, since the rights to sell water are not vested in the hands of the end-users. long time, Chris

  5. @Chris -- No, that wasn't their point (I was there, listening, for four hours), but I agree that your version should have been!


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