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February 02, 2005

Comments

dearieme

The Highland clearances involved some deeply unpleasant behaviour but I understand that it's just sentimental tosh to suggest that the cleared had owned the land or that the land was owned by a clan in some nebulous, never-documented way. They were tenants. Economics changed and sheep were more profitable. So like lots of people in the Lowlands and in England in earlier centuries, they were displaced. Long term, many will have benefited: subsistence agriculture is a pretty dismal way to make a living. When the potato blight arrived the population had largely gone elsewhere and so survived, unlike the Irish peasantry who were still in situ and who died in large numbers. And even if you would prefer the sentimental version, why would it be just to steal the land from the people who bought it from the guy who bought it from the descendants of the 18th century landowner, and gift it to the natives of Leeds and London who now inhabit chunks of the Highlands and Islands?

Robert Schwartz

Now, it is I think an elementary principle of justice that an original unjust acquisition can never be made just by the passage of time or by legitimate transfers thereafter. If you doubt this, try buying a stolen car; even if you bought it fair and square, you’re not allowed to keep it.

Depends. Securities are washed clean by good faith sales. Statutes of limitations can run.

The more interestin issue is why hasn't the distribution changed in the intervening years. That would point to a market failure.

P.S. The folks who got passage to America, might have wound up much better off. Many of our most prosperous citizens are of scottish ancestry.

jpd

"Now, it is I think an elementary principle of justice that an original unjust acquisition can never be made just by the passage of time or by legitimate transfers thereafter. If you doubt this, try buying a stolen car; even if you bought it fair and square, you’re not allowed to keep it."

if you go back far enough all land is stolen or acquired through unjust means. there is little legitimate about the historical origins of land distribution in the U.K. but this historical injustice must be measured against pragmatic interests and fairness and justice for those involved today (rather than those long dead).

israel is arguably "stolen land" (or at the least most property there is), but to return it wholesale to palestinians would be as unjust as the original crime. the same is true for zimbabwe, which is why other nations like botswana and south africa offer compensation and compromises. furthermore if you take into account pragmatic interests in zimbabwe then one can see that their unfair form of land redistribution has ruined the economy, turning zimbabwe from food exporter to a place that can't even feed all their own people.

johann's article is weakly conceived and weakly argued (for instance in a very urbanised country like the U.K. it might be more appropriate to outline what % of people control what % of overall land values, or give an area figure for metropolitan boroughs) but i do believe that land redistribution should be more rigorously enforced in the U.K. - for instance legislation against absentee landlords should be bolstered (local authorities should be able to buy these properties for minimal cost if there has shown to be neglect) and if there is shown to be significant benefit to the local community the govt should subsidise land transfers similar to the ones in scotland. also if we are to go down the route of comprehensive private ownership then those furthest down the ladder should have some form of protection when buying in an open market against the largest buy-to-let landlords such as your duke of westminsters. these are just rough ideas though.

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