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Famine and the State

  • Timothy D. Terrell,
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Was set for 2,900 farmers to leave their lands. Hundreds of arrests followed the passing of the deadline as some farmers refused to comply. Meanwhile, senior politicians, military leaders, and others close to the Mugabe regime have been given the stolen farms. Mugabe's relatives, including his wife, have also enjoyed a share of the plunder. Overall, around 70 percent of the white-owned farms have been turned over to Mugabe's friends and relatives, not poor landless blacks.

The consequences have been dramatic and deadly. At the beginning of Mugabe's rule, Zimbabwe was a net exporter of grain. During the land redistribution, Mugabe's thugs have burned more than 10 million acres of crops and prevented many more acres from being farmed. Government policy has produced terrible food shortages and wide-ranging crisis. At least 300,000 black farm workers have been thrown out of their homes, and many of them have been reduced to living in the forest on wild plants. Starvation has become a real threat for millions of Zimbabweans.

As the interwar Soviet Union and modern Zimbabwe vividly illustrate, an ungodly government is the frequent companion of famine. Governments that promote social conflict so that they can intervene are doing their countries a great disservice. While siphoning wealth off for themselves, they are putting their citizens at risk of enormous hardship.


1. Dziewanowski, M.K., A History of Soviet Russia, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989), p. 185.

2. Carr, E.H., A History of Soviet Russia: Socialism in One Country (London: MacMillan, 1953), p. 47, quoted in Dziewanowski, p. 183.

3. Sibanda, N., "Zimbabwe's Land Question: Fascism or National Interest?" Views (

  • Timothy D. Terrell

Timothy Terrell is associate professor of economics at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is assistant editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics and is an Associated Scholar with the Mises Institute.

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