Land and Loyalty

Land and Loyalty: Security and the Development of Property Rights in Thailand

Tomas Larsson
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Land and Loyalty
    Book Description:

    Domestic and international development strategies often focus on private ownership as a crucial anchor for long-term investment; the security of property rights provides a foundation for capitalist expansion. In recent years, Thailand's policies have been hailed as a prime example of how granting formal land rights to poor farmers in low-income countries can result in economic benefits. But the country provides a puzzle: Thailand faced major security threats from colonial powers in the nineteenth century and from communism in the twentieth century, yet only in the latter case did the government respond with pro-development tactics.

    In Land and Loyalty, Tomas Larsson argues that institutional underdevelopment may prove, under certain circumstances, a strategic advantage rather than a weakness and that external threats play an important role in shaping the development of property regimes. Security concerns, he find, often guide economic policy. The domestic legacies, legal and socioeconomic, resulting from state responses to the outside world shape and limit the strategies available to politicians. While Larsson's extensive archival research findings are drawn from Thai sources, he situates the experiences of Thailand in comparative perspective by contrasting them with the trajectory of property rights in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6408-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-14)

    What are the causes of economic development? Increasingly, scholars of political economy answer “institutions” in general and property rights institutions in particular. As Matthew Lange argues, “the protection of property rights is quite possibly the most basic type of social regulation necessary for market production and expansion” (2005, 58). Emphasizing the importance of private property, prominent economists have defined a “good” institution as “a social organization that ensures that a broad cross-section of the society has effective property rights” (Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2003, 86, emphasis in original). While the notion is not entirely novel, the Peruvian economist Hernando de...

    (pp. 15-29)

    Since the middle of the 1950s the Thai state has engaged in the formalization of land rights on a massive scale—with the area under title rising from 2.05 million hectares in 1955 to more than 20 million hectares in 2000—as part of an effort to bring economic development to rural areas.¹ As is well known, such attempts to rapidly “improve the human condition” often fail, sometimes disastrously so (Scott 1998, 30). At face value, however, the economic development story of Thailand gives us reason to believe that in this instance it worked. This chapter describes the socio-economic effects...

    (pp. 30-72)

    In studies of economic development in East and Southeast Asia, security threats are often assigned a central role as drivers of developmental state activity (Doner, Ritchie, and Slater 2005; Stubbs 1999, 2005; Feeny 1982; Zhu 2000, 2002; Acemoglu and Robinson 2006). When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Siam had faced the threat of colonization for almost a century, and an imminent threat for the past three decades. However, the imperialist threat had not inspired a developmental response from the government of Siam (Anderson 1978; Battye 1974). The country’s physical infrastructure and institutional development remained surprisingly weak....

    (pp. 73-107)

    During the period covered in this chapter, roughly from the onset of World War I to the end of World War II, Siam underwent important political and economic changes.

    While the Siamese state in the pre–World War I period favored a policy aimed at decommodifying land—or at least limiting the extent of commodification—for reasons related mainly to the protection of state sovereignty, the continuation of such a policy came to be favored also for a new reason. The rise of nationalism, often articulated in anti-Chinese terms, introduced a new referent object to the process of securitization: the...

    (pp. 108-146)

    Following the enactment of a Land Code in 1954, land titling expanded dramatically in Thailand. Under this reformed legal regime—which constituted a consolidation and rationalization of the existing somewhat disparate body of land law—the area under the two kinds of title deeds that provided sufficiently strong formal property rights in land for them to be accepted as collateral by financial institutions (NS3 and NS4) increased from 12.8 million rai in 1955 to 126 million rai in 2000 (see figure 5.1). The expansion of formal property rights occurred in two waves. In the first wave, beginning from a very...

    (pp. 147-152)

    Where do “good” property rights institutions come from? Answering this question requires us to address the fundamental question of politics (Lasswell 1936): Who gets what, when, how? This book has sought to demonstrate that the interplay between processes of securitization and the contexts in which they operate have shaped the trajectory of institutional development in Thailand, and thereby determining, in broad terms, who gets land and access to capital, when they get it, and how they get it. In a nutshell, Thai farmers can thank the imperialists for getting land, and the communists for getting access to capital. Without these...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 153-170)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-208)