ownership

Guest Editorial
land

You cannot rightfully own land

by Stephen Bint

The choice to have private land ownership over public land ownership, represents a significant cost to the community. Public ownership would lower rents and free up land to entrepreneurs. It would also provide everyone with a regular income in compensation their loss of common land, which is an ever-present cost to all individuals.

Q. What is wrong with private land ownership?
A. Land ownership is an abusive tradition waiting to be abolished, like slavery once was.

Common land is like a public library. Everyone is free to use it without charge.

A landowner is like someone standing at the entrance to a library demanding money from the people who want to go in. The man neither built the library nor did anything to earn any money from the people who use it. He only thinks he owns the public library. He has not served us in any way; how can we owe him a library?

What would a man at the entrance to a library have to do, to obtain the right to stop us using it, under our existing laws?

1. He could baggsy it.
(The man at the entrance decides he owns the library because he was the first to declare himself the owner.)

2. He could mix his labour with it.
(The man is a roofer, who has mixed his labour with the library by fixing the roof. He claims ownership of the whole library as his rightful payment.)

3. He could occupy it for a long time. (The man at the door is a tramp who has been using the library for a snooze every day for twenty years.)

4. He could buy it from someone who used method 1., 2. or 3. (The man, tired of standing by the library entrance demanding money and being laughed at, sells the library to a passing pigeon for five hundred bucks. The pigeon takes up his position at the entrance. "But I paid good money for it," cries the pigeon, when people laugh.)

Obviously none of these methods can make you the rightful owner of common property such as a library, or common land. The rest of us would be mad to pay such self-proclaimed "owners" for the right to enter a public place which is not anyone's private property for any valid reason.

Normally the original owner of a thing is the person who made it. Yet no one became a landowner by making land. The original claimants of our common land declared themselves the owners in the same laughable way as the man outside the library. They got away with it by killing everyone who argued.

Q. Did land ownership ever make sense?
A. It nearly did, once. Landowners used to organise our defence. It used to be a protection racket, in other words. Over the last hundred years we became our own protectors, paying for our own police and army. Now landowners do not protect us, they have no economic purpose and we get nothing in return for the rent we pay them. So it used to make some sense but now it makes no sense whatsoever.

Q. What difference would it make if we nationalised land?
A. All land would be leased out and the money shared equally among all citizens in the nationalised territory, or all rent could be used to pay for the government so income tax can be abolished (which many advocate on the grounds that it would cause an economic miracle).

Q. Is revolution necessary?
A. No. Let me reassure you that we can rule out revolution as a method. By nationalising land gradually over fifty or a hundred years we can avoid upsetting landowners too much. If we get impatient to nationalise land before the hundred years is up we can buy some land and play with that.

Q. How do we prevent mass migration to nationalised territories?
A. By convincing people in as many other countries as possible, to nationalise their land at the same time as we do or before we do.

Q. What would be our ultimate objective?
A. Our ultimate objective would be, to share all the rent from all natural resources equally amongst all human beings, internationally. Yet we are not in such a hurry as to need to force the pace of change and cause conflict.

The important first step is to establish that land ownership is as surely a crime as slavery was and that the end of land ownership is as morally necessary as the abolition of slavery was. Then we can begin the long discussion of how we are going to bring about the changes.


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