Re-Examining the Role of Private Property in Market Democracies:Problematic Ideological Issues Raised by Land Registration

In the post-1989 world, the primacy of private property is taken for granted. The final fall of communism, it would seem, is an adequate commentary of the supremacy of private property arrangements in facilitating economic development. Debates pitting plan (with its associated appetite for communal or collective property) against market (with its avowed belief in private property) are now considered superfluous. As far as the “Western world” was concerned, it seemed that the task of persuading the rest of the world that private property is the key to efficient market performance and economic development had finally been accomplished. The only task left was for development and policy makers to devise regimes for establishing private property arrangements in the rest of the world. The argument made was that, barring transaction costs, if: 1) the initial endowment of property rights is clearly defined; 2) corruption held in check; 3) freedom of contract entrenched; and 4) the rule of law respected, then a viable market for property, and other rights to economic resources will ensue. The eventual result would be an exchange and reallocation of property rights to the most efficient users with attendant benefit to the entire economy. In the first instance, this Article evaluates how this task of establishing regimes of “clear property rights” supported by a transparent rule of law has worked out in practice.