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Security of Property Rights for Whom? (Terra Lawson-Remer)

Property insecurity of non-elites can be compatible with or even enhance economic growth, but it also encourages conflict—which can undermine long-term growth and economic development. Using a new set of indicators which measure the property insecurity of marginalized ethno-cultural minority groups, this article demonstrates that the severity of property insecurity for the worst-off group in a country is strongly associated with the onset of armed conflict, and—once civil war is controlled for—property insecurity for marginalized minorities corresponds with higher growth rates. Economic growth can occur when the property rights of elites are secure but marginalized minorities face a high risk of expropriation, as land may be reallocated into the hands of investors with skills and access to capital. However, the potentially growth-enhancing effect of forced displacement and resettlement is reduced, because the property insecurity of minorities also increases the likelihood of armed conflict. 1. Introduction---------- ----------------------------------------------------------------- Perhaps you have heard of us. We are Mexican, mostly indigenous, and we took up arms on January 1, 1994 demanding a voice, a face and a name for the forgotten of the earth. Since then, the Mexican government has made war on us, pursues and harasses us seeking our death, our disappearance and our absolute silence. The reason? These lands are rich with oil, uranium and precious lumber. The government wants them for the great transnational companies. We want them for all Mexicans. The government sees our lands as a business. We see our history written in these lands. In order to defend our right (and that of all Mexicans) to live with liberty, democracy, justice and dignity we became an army and took on a name, a voice and face. (Subcomandante Marcos, Juana Ponce de León, April 1999, Letter to Mumia Abu Jamal)