Monday, October 12, 2009

Towards A New Relationship With The land

Profiteering from land transactions degrades both the nature-human relationship and the social fabric of humanity.

Access to land is important in the economic sphere (as well as the residential sphere, of course). But when access is perpetuated, once the productive purpose has stopped, it becomes inappropriate and destructive.

This article is not promoting socialism, per se. It is not recommending that means of production be transferred to common ownership. As Steiner indicates: “Instead of common ownership of the means of production, a circulation of the means of production will come about within the social organization, so that these continually become available to the people whose individual capacities can render them of greatest possible use to the whole community.”

In this model, land-property ceases to be what it has been up until now. And it does not revert to an old, outdated form, such as common ownership represents, but is led forward to become something wholly new. Land-property is made more fluid, entering the flow of social relationships and processes. The individual can no longer manage land in his own interest to the detriment of the general interest; but nor can the general community manage it bureaucratically to the individual’s detriment. Instead, suitable individuals will gain access to it, and use it to serve the community.

Of course, this social renewal also includes the cultivation of spiritual and creative faculties, faculties that are largely over-whelmed at this time by our materialistic focus. For example, economic theorists often cite profit motivation as a necessary driving force in the economic realm of society. However, once an individual discovers the greater profit that is born out of his/her individual spiritual and creative process, and that moves into the world as a beneficial resource for the well-being of the community, or overall social organism, material profit as a motivation becomes redundant.

Finally, a quote from Vision and Action for Another World – Powerful Ideas and Inspiring Practical Approaches, ed. Ulrich Roesch:

“Land belongs to everyone, though it is utilized by individuals. In this sense, individual ‘ownership’ of land can only refer to the right of utilization. As long as such individual utilization continues unchanged, there is no need for societal action. Society only has to ensure that a new user can step into the rights of the previous user, when the previous user quits. In such a system, the right of land utilization would change hands only by assignment, not by sale. In this way, land ‘ownership’ would be brought back into circulation within the social system.. Society would not manage the land; it would only ensure that it is available to (suitable) individuals for utilization, and also that such utilization is not made impossible because of prohibitive pricing.

Instead of a purchase price paid to the previous owner, society could impose a social compensation payment for any ongoing utilization of land. This is justified because the use of land by one individual excludes everyone else from using the same plot. Communal income accruing from the compensation payments would be used to benefit all people in the respective region of that part of the world. Such compensation payments do not constitute interest on capital, since no sale, and thus no capital transfer, has taken place. Their quantification would not be determined by supply and demand but by social considerations. For instance, society can adjust the amount of payment so as to further ecological agriculture, or some other societal goal.”

Further resources:

The reader is invited to visit the full version from which this article has been excerpted - The End of Real Estate - and what can take its place.

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