Wastelands Ordinance

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The Cultivation of Wastelands Ordinance, also known as a Wastelands Ordinance, is an ordinance[1] that presumes that, in a given area, there exists the problem referred to as a tragedy of the commons. This phrase has been most frequently used by nobles hoping to be able to convince the population that it would be better for a local economy if they were allowed to lay claim to a given piece of land (for private use),[2] thereby implying that this would "correct" the situation, making the land thus claimed yield more produce. From roughly 1982 onward, however, a body of research has been emerging that suggests that the claimed productivity gains were mostly imaginary, and the only effect it had was that it enriched the new land-owners.[3] This was argued to apply even more to lands under cultivation by so-called 'native populations', and as such this ordinance was invented to allow the colonial power to 'legally' annex the land. Historically, the wastelands ordinance has most often been used to claim lands from natives, for use by a colonial or occupying power, most notably the British in Sri Lanka.


  1. ^ Alan Dowty, Critical issues in Israeli society (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), p.113
  2. ^ Boyle, J. (2003) "The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain", Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 66, Issue 33, pp. 34-36.
  3. ^ Robert C. Allen, "The Efficiency and Distributional Consequences of Eighteenth Century Enclosures," 92 ECON. J. 937 (1982)