Land Ownership and Agricultural Success in Russia

The editorial suggests that turning land over to private ownership in Russia and other former Soviet republics will be crucial to solving the problem of food production there.Facts cited in the editorial, however, indicate that it is not so much the lack of land ownership that is the problem, but rather the continued control by local party chiefs over land leases. Land ownership is not essential for inducing efficient production, while security of tenure is. To work properly, a market system needs to encourage labor and capital investment. But it does not need a class of people who by mere ownership of land and other scarce natural resources become enriched at the expense of the community. A streamlined and rational reform of the land-leasing system would avoid this problem if it collected, for the community, the value of the services that the community provides to the owner. Wendell Fitzgerald, San Francisco

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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