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The way we deal with ownership, stems from ancient Rome. That in itself should be a reason to ask ourselves if it wouldn’t make sense to have a thorough look at ownership rights again. Shouldn't agreements and rules continuously have to evolve and be adapted to our present circumstances and shaped to fit our current way of living? 


And of course we are not talking about private ownership of basic things that everyone needs, but about ownership of land and capital.


Limitation of ownership rights


The idea that land (nature) can be privately owned, is just as strange as the idea that air can be privately owned. There are things that can be owned, and things that cannot be owned, or should not be owned, but be a public good. Everything produced by man and meant to be consumed can be sold and therefore be owned. It speaks for itself that we can sell a pound of potatoes, a car or a house. But this does not apply to land or capital.




Nature (for example a piece of land) was never produced by humans. In earlier times, land was in many cultures part of the commons. The Agrarian Revolution basically meant enclosures of the commons. The basic distribution of property after the enclosures initially corresponded to the system of property rights that had prevailed before. Accordingly, property rights developed in different ways. In some cases the nobility was taking possession of the common land and granting the peasants only minimal “compensation.”

Nowadays, property rights are guaranteed by the state. And states will, as a last resort, if you invade their property or space, defend it with violence.


It is in all our interest that a farmer can farm a piece of land and sell the harvest. But selling land is not in our interest and not productive; it is only in the interest of the person who sells it. In the end, it is always us - the consumer - that pays the price. Because who do you think will pay for the mortgage the farmer had to take out to buy a piece of land? It will be passed on to the consumer in the price of the product. 




The same goes for the ownership of capital. In this case we are talking about capital as the instrument that an entrepreneur needs to set up a company and to grow his business.


Whenever a farm or a company is sold, it leads to extra costs in the form of interest and repayments, which in the end always have to be paid off by suppliers, employees and/or customers. After all, the costs of a takeover have to be earned back.


The fact that land and capital can be sold, also stimulates that owners are only interested in short-term effects, and lose sight of a sustainable future.


Split of ownership rights


There are companies and initiatives that have found other ways to deal with ownership. For instance Stockwood Community Benefit Society, the Sleipnir group, Stichting Grondbeheer (Land Trust Foundation) and the construction of the Triodos Bank.


A renewal of the old principle of ownership can be achieved by splitting the classical ownership rights into a management right and a user right. That is to say, in a right to manage the property (of, for example, land or capital) which means ensuring it is used productively, and a right to use the property (which means working productively with the land or the capital).


The management organization could be a non-profit foundation. The only task of such a foundation would be to ensure that land or capital is used productively, by making sure that the company is managed by qualified entrepreneurs or, when that is no longer the case, by finding other suitable entrepreneurs.


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