This Article begins the project of constructing a unified account of land reform. This model consists of two central aspects. First, it articulates a set of goals, both practical and expressive, that redistributive land reform efforts can forward. Second, it offers a pragmatic theory of land reform, one that simultaneously achieves the progressive, poverty-eradication goals of land reform proponents and satisfies neoliberal demand for stable land markets. In this regard, the project offers a fresh way of thinking of the intractable conflict in land reform policy: how to redistribute land without destabilizing the nation. In addressing this problem, the Article brings a conversation about land reform that primarily exists in development studies into the legal literature and informs that discussion with legal insights.
This Article proceeds in three parts. Part I briefly defines what redistributive land reform is before moving on to identify and discuss land reform’s pragmatic and expressive goals. Part II takes on the controversial problem of redistribution. It differentiates between expropriation-based models of land reform and market-compatible models, explains how expropriation can undermine development goals, and reveals how market-compatible approaches maintain the economic stability needed for meaningful development. Part III fleshes out how land reform programs operate, distinguishing among different land reform strategies. The Article concludes by observing that while market-compatible land reform makes good sense, both logically and theoretically, it will rise or fall based on whether enough land is made available to address the problem of rural poverty; it calls upon legal scholars of many doctrines to help shape policies and laws that support robust land reform initiatives.