Do you like starving? I don’t. As anyone who knows me is aware, I am fond of eating, perhaps even a bit too fond of it sometimes, and though my tastes are not particularly fancy, they are hearty when it comes to enjoying food. Yet you would think by their behavior that the leaders of some nations liked their people to starve. There are many people who are critical of the behavior of governments on principle, seeing any act of war or any demonstration of the power of central government as a great evil–I happen to follow many of these people on Twitter and to put it very mildly they are not very kind to the various people who hold positions of governmental authority whether alive or dead. Yet there are people in governments who see in theft and the dispossession of privileged and landholding classes  the salvation of their people and who consistently find instead the damnation and ruin of their people, and yet this does not lead to the sort of soul-searching repentance that might save such nations.
Why does envy and theft on the part of populist governments towards their successful farming populations lead to national ruin so consistently? In the mid 1990’s Hutus slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people under the illusion that their national well-being was being harmed by widows owning acres of land and Tutsis being a supposed privileged elite. Since we in the West had no vital interests to protect, the slaughter went on, and Rwanda has become synonymous with barbaric slaughter. In the time before independence, Rhodesia was once a breadbasket for Africa, but the dispossession of western farmers after Zimbabwe was made a black state led the state to suffer ruinous hyperinflation and massive food shortages, only being bailed out of their disaster by exports from neighboring South Africa. It turns out that South Africa was still productive with western farms, but those days appear to be numbered as yet another envious and greedy government has turned its eyes on a seemingly privileged minority, believing that agricultural plenty deserves to be in their own unworthy hands. And so, like so many nations before it, South Africa will starve after having driven the whites off of their productive farms, and they will be nostalgic about the days when they lived in Bantustans but at least had enough to eat to survive.
Why does this happen? It is easy to be envious of those who have done better in some fashion. It is certainly convenient for those who are not doing well to console themselves for their comparative lack of success to blame others for their shortcomings. It is easier to point a finger at others and blame racism and corruption for one’s struggles than to ponder what habits would have better served one in seeking success. When it comes to agricultural wealth, success in farming depends a great deal on having wisdom passed down from experience. Long-term economic and climactic cycles can be understood, and when this knowledge is understood and passed along from one generation of yeoman farmers to another, the hard-earned insights of the past can help those who follow to succeed or indeed to endure. It is not the land itself that is valuable, but the habits of body and mind and the knowledge of the skilled farmer that makes the land valuable. A comparison between the agricultural skill of Israel and the barrenness of so much of the rest of the Middle East is useful in demonstrating what blessings can come to a land when it comes under the ownership and direction of wise stewards. Those who wish to starve are envious about such success, while those who desire to eat and to live well emulate that success and strive to do what makes one successful.
We ought to be cautious here and not imply that everything that has been done by Westerners in acquiring land around the world has been blameless. If peoples around the world harbor deep grievances against the rapacious land hunger from European settler colonists, there are certainly reasons for it. Yet for all that, the results are pretty unequivocal that the way that westerners used the land made it possible for many people to live much better in those lands than was the case before. Even at the highest estimates, North America was home to a couple million people, most of whom were involved in subsistence agriculture and hunting and gathering in the pre-Columbian period, while now being home to more than 350 million prosperous people whose life is the envy of the world. The land didn’t change, but the way it was used did. The same can be said for Australia and South Africa and other places where the well-being of people dramatically improved for the better when westerners settled a land and provided bounties to be enjoyed by a wider population than that which can be served by kleptocracies and corrupt empires which seek to serve only their elites. When nations are ruled by those who are envious of success and achievement, their people starve and flee into neighboring lands seeking bread and work–witness Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.
The process by which nations suffer when they are ruled by thieving governments that seek to punish the successful and divide their property among their noisy and envious followers is so regular and so law-like that one wonders if it corresponds to actual natural law that is simply being ignored to the ruin and suffering of millions of not billions of people around the world. In one sense, this reality corresponds precisely to an ancient prophecy whose results live on in Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Over and over again we have seen this happen to the physical and moral descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, who have repeatedly gotten out of their country and gone to lands that God has shown them and been great nations that have blessed the world through their efforts at increasing the well-being of themselves and those around them. That blessing only endures, though, as long as people appreciate the blessings they have, rather than being envious of those who have more. In such a world as our own, one wonders how long those blessings will endure anywhere when the wicked among us stir up envy among all those who do not have as much as they think they deserve, not realizing that anything we have is a gift from God to be grateful and appreciative for.
 See, for example: