Is the land debate chiefly about what happens in the countryside, or in the cities? As land expropriation demands produce one of the few serious policy debates we have seen in recent years, it seems largely taken for granted that at issue is what happens on farms. Much of the discussion has centred on academics who study rural land issues, commercial farmers’ unions and activists in rural areas. This risks ignoring a crucial problem — the need to change land patterns in the cities. This has not come up much even though just about everyone in the debate is based in the cities and not terribly familiar with rural issues. This is not surprising. Land is in focus because it symbolises something bigger — it’s really about who should enjoy the fruits of the economy. This is understandable, but it does not remove the need to tackle the land question — in the cities and in rural areas. It is becoming clearer by the day that, despite the heat triggered by the land debate on both sides, it wi...

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