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What is the value of the Earth?

Do you think that land and resources should be private property or should they belong to the community? In our current economy the relationship between land and money is fairly obvious. If you have money you can buy land and resources and then sell these at your discretion. The consequences of this economic model are clear: we live on a planet where a small group of people owns almost all assets, while the vast majority of humanity has little or no possessions or, even worse, lives in poverty.


The current economic system is based on the pursuit of personal wealth, without taking into account the public interest. We act as if land and resources are infinite. However, the reality is different. Natural resources become depleted, farmlands are subject to erosion and water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. That is what happens when we treat the earth and its resources as though they only represent an economic value. But the earth is much more than that: it is the source of our life.


John Bloom, vice-president of RSF Social Finance, recently wrote a blog about this subject and describes the difference between capital and land very aptly: "Capital moves freely about the world, across space and time; land and natural resources are rooted in place and geologic time. In a materialistic economy, time is money, and money used in this way sadly has no patience for the evolutionary pace of nature."


At the start of the industrial revolution economist and politician Henry George (1839-1897) already warned us about the dangers of private ownership of land. He published his view in 1880 in the publication "Progress and Poverty". According to George land and resources should be owned in the commons. To him private ownership and the control of rents was one of the major contributing causes of impoverishment of the many at the hands of the few. It seems time has proved him right.


The alternative that George had in mind was an economy in which the community as a whole benefits from the proceeds of land and resources. This idea was further developed by others and led to a new economic movement that particularly stresses the need to carefully deal with our environment, which aims at the re-use of raw materials, which advocates for local entrepreneurship and locally produced goods and food. In this new economy local communities take matters into their own hands and take full responsibility for the development of their own economy in which they care for their environment with which they are so closely linked.


We don’t need a clairvoyant to see what happens if we stick to our current economic system. It will inevitably lead to more pollution and an ongoing plunder and exploitation of the earth that nurtures us. The signs of the destructive power of our current economy are obvious and all around us. Right now for example ‘Global Justice Now’ is fighting for the rights of local communities in Nigeria, where private companies buy up large tracts of land and in the name of progress people are forced to leave their homes: Global Justice Now Campaign.


If we wish to transform our economy and make it more just, we need a new perspective on property and should stop focusing on personal gain.


If you like to know how the Summer Foundation looks at the link between money and property, then please read Summer Foundation's Ideas on Ownership.


Source: RSF Social Finance.


Official Progress and Poverty (1880) by Henry George: Progress and Poverty.  


Michel Bijpost

February 2015

John  |  2015 02 10  |  Permalink  |  Share


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