Last year I did some seminars in Bulgaria and this morning, a delightful couple who attended one of them visited our farm to see up close and personal what they had only been able to experience via pictures during my presentations.
Although Bulgaria was not part of the old Soviet Union, it was as close as possible without being a formal member. When the Communists took over, they confiscated all the land because private property was taboo. In 1997, with governmental change, that land could be returned to its rightful owners.
After 50 years, however, those original land-owning families had had children and grandchildren. This young entrepreneurial couple is trying to lease land but the leases are hampered by protective regulations in Bulgaria's land return policy. For example, one acre is owned by 67 people scattered all over the world. To have a lease longer than 1 year, this couple must get signatures from all 67 descendants of the original owners, which of course is impossible. In order to rectify the sins of confiscation, the culture is bending over backwards to make sure every square yard to which someone has historic ties is returned to its rightful owners. But after two or three generations, that's easier said than done.
Cultural contexts are fascinating. I asked them what they saw as a solution. Quickly, they replied "taxes." Now I'm not a fan of taxes, but as it turns out, agricultural land is not taxed at all in Bulgaria. The result is that all these multiple owners have no incentive to do anything with it. The unsettledness of the land ownership, then, continues unabated. Nothing moves and much of it sits idle since ownership costs nothing.
They said the second farmland is taxed, all these descendants who own fractions of the pie will either sell or buy to get things settled. Until that happens, the economy continues to stagnate, entrepreneurial farmers don't have access to land, unemployment remains rampant and city folks spend exorbitantly for food. They said the country needed leaders with enough backbone to push through a tax on idle farmland. Then all sorts of things would happen.
Isn't it interesting to listen to someone else's problem? It doesn't make ours go away, but it sure puts some things in perspective. When you realize that all of this was done due to confiscation of private property, it makes you understand how terrible socialism is. Today, we have way too many folks dancing with socialism. I wonder how they expect to eat?
Have you ever voted for a socialist?