November 7, 2011
Ellickson on Complex Land Titles in China, Then and Now
Robert Ellickson (Yale) has posted a draft of The Costs of Complex Land Titles: Two Examples from China. He presented this paper at last month's Brigham-Kanner Conference, which was held this year in Beijing instead of its usual home at William & Mary. Here's the abstract:
Chinese customs and law have traditionally prevented a land seller from conveying outright title to a buyer. The ancient custom of dian, which persisted until the 1949 Revolution, gave a land seller and his lineage an immutable option to buy back sold land at the original sale price. This little-analyzed custom discouraged soil conservation and land improvements, and, especially after 1600, contributed to China’s inability to keep pace with England.
After calamitous experiences with land collectivization between 1951 and 1981, China’s Communist government began to confer private land-use rights. But, instead of making outright sales, it chose to award contractual rights only for a fixed-term, for example, 50 years in the case of an industrial parcel. For the same reasons dian did, this policy threatens to impair China’s prospects of economic development.
Fun fact: Bob Ellickson placed 70th in the 2010 National Scrabble Championship.
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