Alternatives to Owning the Earth

Ideas about property rights are so fundamental to the economy and society that we rarely question them. But property rights to the earth are at the heart of millennia of conflict, war, poverty and exploitation. A timid response would be to transfer land from its present owners to a new and, for a while, more equal group of owners. A radical approach would change our ideas about the nature of ownership so that everybody benefits from the wealth of the natural world.

Jonty Williams and Julian Pratt, both of the Henry George Society of Devon, will host this important conversation which will provide everybody an opportunity to share their ideas about proprietorship of land. The four main alternatives – private property, common property, collective (state) property and no-ownership – have been available for discussion and implementation since Roman times. We will explore what duties and responsibilities should be re-attached to these property rights, and what a profoundly different society this would create.

Jonty Williams is the co-founder of the Husbandry School at Bickington and author of Husbandry: an ancient art for the modern world. One proposal that he sets out is that the husbandry clauses in traditional agricultural leases should form the model for a legal responsibility to care for the land that would be applied to all land, urban as well as rural. Another is that, in order to feel comfortable erecting the fences that he needs for husbandry he should, along with all other proprietors of land, have a duty to pay the market rent for that land into a fund to be used for the common good – a proposal generally known as Land Value Taxation.

Together these proposals would transform property rights ownership into stewardship in a way that would radically change access to land (including housing), levels of taxation and inequalities in wealth – as described by Julian Pratt in Stewardship Economy: private property without private ownership.

Copies of these two books will be available at the talk, or you can download the pdf files for free by following the links above.

October 16 @ 7:30 pm9:30 pm, Methodist Church, Totnes Fore Street

Part of the Adventures in New Economics speaker series, in collaboration with Schumacher College.

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