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Re: [TheLandIsOurs] Ownership (Discussion)

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  • Malcolm Ramsay
    Dave Bangs wrote: Private ownership is in contradiction with the multiple, social, collective, nature of the values held by the land. The obvious way of
    Message 1 of 16 , Apr 1, 2012

      Dave Bangs wrote: "Private ownership is in contradiction with the multiple, social, collective, nature of the values held by the land. The obvious way of managing a social resource is socially, that is democratically by its collective users."

      I think you're assuming certain features of private ownership to be intrinsic to it, Dave, when in fact they result from the perverse way it operates in our current society. I don't see the contradiction you're seeing; to me, private ownership is the mechanism through which the social resource can be managed most effectively, for the benfit of
      its collective users.

      The fact that land has multiple uses is only one side of the problem. The other side is the fact that people value it in different ways, and the way they value it changes with time and circumstances. One of the questions I asked was: what mechanisms should there be for discovering and weighing everybody's priorities, and allocating land accordingly? You say it should be managed 'democratically by its collective users', and this is fine as a banner heading - at that level I've no argument with it at all - but when you start looking in detail (as I do briefly below) it's grossly inadequate.

      "The core problem with private land rent is that it is intrinsically parasitic."

      I'd say that's only true where land ownership is unfairly distributed. Let's look at a hypothetical situation where everyone has an acre of land: Tweedledum thinks that, if he didn't have to spend so much time working his plot, he could be better off making things his neighbours would want to buy; but he's worried that in fact his neighbours wouldn't in fact want what he makes - and if he gives up working his land in order to try, he risks starving. However, his neighbour, Tweedledee, reckons that he has time to work another acre, and could more than double what he's producing with no more than one and a half times the work. He's not entirely sure it would work out either, but he's willing to make a commitment, for a year or two, to provide Tweedledum with food in exchange for whatever surplus he himself can produce on Tweedledum's land. This is private land rent, but it's an agreement between equals which has the potential to make both of them better off - what's parasitical about that?

      More importantly, how else could the benefits of that arrangement be achieved? You say land should be managed 'democratically by its collective users', but that throws up a whole slew of questions: for example, who exactly are the collective users of a particular piece of land, and how much weight should be given to each voice? Are the city-dwellers (who rely on the land for their food, but have no direct knowledge of it) to have an equal say with the people who live and work on it? In principle, private ownership provides a workable mechanism whereby all the possible uses of land and all the different priorities of land users can be weighed against each other. You might be able to suggest some other mechanism, but the further it is from the system we have already, the harder it will be to persuade other people of its merits.

      The problems we have in the present system lie in the fact that the basic distribution of land ownership is grossly inequitable. That has two root causes (which I've written about here in the past); most obviously, the fact that the (probably unavoidable) inequalities of each present moment are preserved across generations means that they keep getting larger; and (less obviously) the fact that land, which is finite in extent, is traded using a currency which can be expanded without limit. The first of those two offers a route to reform; the way inheritance operates at present is so blatantly unjust, and so obviously at odds with the values that a democratic society is based on, that it is indefensible. It only survives because nobody is attacking it with a coherent argument and a credible vision of how the system might in fact operate fairly.

      Malcolm


      From: david bangs <dave.bangs@...>
      To: TheLandIsOurs@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Saturday, 31 March 2012, 7:52
      Subject: [TheLandIsOurs] Ownership (Discussion)

       
      
      Two points.
       
      Land has multiple uses...food or timber growing, for built developments of many kinds, for biodiversity, as a bearer of mineral or water resources, for recreation, as a repository of cultural/historical value, and so on. Private ownership is in contradiction with the multiple, social, collective, nature of the values held by the land. The obvious way of managing a social resource is socially, that is democratically by its collective users.
       
      The core problem with private land rent is that it is intrinsically parasitic. The owner extracts value without any participation in the productive process (although there is often token participation for ideological reasons and to legitimise landlord control). Land exploitation is distorted to maximise this extraction of value,
       
      Dave Bangs
       
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