"The greatest good for the greatest number" : American land redistribution in East and Southeast Asia, 1945-1969

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2016-05

Authors

Conrad, David Andrew

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Abstract

Between 1945 and 1969, United States policymakers advocated the redistribution of farmland in East and Southeast Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and South Vietnam. Land reformers hoped to prevent communist insurgencies in rural Asia and promote economic growth, but land redistribution was not merely a means to an end. Mid-century American policymakers viewed the equalization of landownership as an end unto itself because of their shared Jeffersonian ideology. Despite a consistent worldview and a largely consistent methodology, reformers faced different challenges and achieved varying degrees of success in the countries they hoped to reform. The example of the Philippines, while arguably more Latin American than Asian with respect to landownership patterns, serves as a prologue to the American land reform experience in Asia. The postwar reforms begin with the well-known example of Japan, which set the standard for subsequent reforms both in terms of policy specifics and outcomes. The nearly-contemporary example of South Korea provides a unique twist since the United States itself was the peninsula’s largest landowner at the time of the reform. The American contributions to Taiwan’s post-1949 reform are recovered in chapter 4, while chapter 5 delves into bureaucratic infighting in Washington as a prelude to the final, troubled episode of South Vietnam.

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