Towards Precise Norms for Land Acquisition in Developing Countries

– Hans-Bernd Schäfer

We relate the law and economics discussion of precise legal rules versus broad and information-intensive legal standards to the impact of the law on economic development and to economic and political features of low and middle-income countries in general and to how land acquisition law work in this setting. We review the conceptual differences between rules and standards. Next, we relate our findings to taking law in developing countries, where clear rules often serve the purpose of the law better than standards. We describe how the perspective on eminent domain power has been shifting since the 1950s, when developed economics regard powerful planning by the state as the most important agent of economic development, to present day views, which are dramatically different and in which “land grabbing” by the government has become paradigmatic of misguided economic development. We support clear and precise rules regulating eminent domain power. The rationale for such rules is pervasive as they cut into individual rights. But for many developing countries additional reasons for precise rules exist.

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