For more information about how land reform can create meaningful work, restore our ecology, and bring more wealth into our local communities, I invite you to read my book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World.

Based on the economic patterns I’ve been observing, I’ll make an educated prediction:

As long as land is not in the commons, but instead privately owned — thus requiring financing—banks will increasingly become more powerful until one day, they will rule us all.

Oh, wait. They already do.

But what’s the connection between the banks and land? The mortgage, of course. Homebuyers—land buyers—offer banks a mortgage on real estate property: A mortgage provides homebuyers with money that allows them to purchase a piece of property that they might not have been able to afford otherwise.

It’s no accident that the word mortgage contains the word mort (from Latin mortuus, past participle of mori “to die”). The word mortgage contains this reference to death because the agreement between the bank and the property owner dies if the property owner fails to make a payment on his mortgage (at least in the United States): Even if a property owner has paid off 99% of her mortgage, the bank can swoop in and take the entire home if she can’t pay on time!

Just like that.

“Even if a property owner has paid off 99% of her mortgage, the bank can swoop in and take the entire home if she can’t pay on time.”

But banks are not only powerful because they have the ability to take it all back; they also have the power—in our current economic system of land ownership—to prevent human beings from living in certain places.

Think about it: banks provide little green permission slips (also known as money), which people then give to other people so that they can live on a piece of land somewhere. In return, once a person lives on a piece of land, that person has to then work really, really hard to pay back the bank all the money that was given to him—and then some (quite a bit more, actually). In this way, the bank makes a lot of money from land.

The trouble, however, is that land existed long before anyone has ever lived on it, and it’ll still be there long after we’ll all be gone. So banks make money from something that no human being has ever brought into existence. In a sense, banks make something from nothing. No wonder banks require so much regulatory oversight.

“Banks profit from our human need to be close to one another.”

Then there’s the simple fact that every human being needs land, especially land in good locations — that is, land in good communities. But because there’s only so much land, our human need for community naturally tends to make land more expensive (compare the price of real estate in the city to the price of real estate in the countryside). So the real kicker is this: because banks make money from land, and because land is more expensive the closer we live together, banks profit from our human need to be close to one another.

Just for the record: I hold no grudge toward bankers—none at all. Some of my close friends and acquaintances are bankers. It’s not the bankers that are at fault. I’d even propose that deep down nobody is at fault—ever. We’re all players in an economic game that doesn’t serve everyone—and, I propose, therefore doesn’t fully serve anyone.

Image Credit: Rich Brooks

I believe it’s time to once again look at this game of Monopoly we’re playing and see if it really serves us. I would propose that as long as we’re playing a game that has both winners and losers, neither winners nor losers will ultimately be satisfied with how the game turns out: Coming out on top feels hollow, and ending up on the bottom… well, that’s no fun, either.

Having spent years thinking about this situation, I’ve personally come to a single conclusion: land has to be owned in common (or not at all—but that’s another story altogether). Owning land in common doesn’t mean it can’t be privately used; of course it can. But once land is owned in common, any money that’s being made from land by certain banks or individuals goes to everyone, equally.

And I believe that, my fellow players, is the only way to end this game of Monopoly and transform it into another game—a happier one for everyone.

For more information about how land reform can create meaningful work, restore our ecology, and bring more wealth into our local communities, I invite you to read my book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World.

© Text Copyright Martin Adams rights reserved.
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