Purchasing Property – The Big Picture

Purchasing real property (land, home) is an important life decision with rewards and responsibilities.

Throughout the ages, humans have revered land ownership as a symbol of power and independence. However, in certain cultural views (my own included), humans cannot own the land, but rather we are only land stewards.  This point has a strong ethical and romantic foundation, because it places humans in the role of actors in an ecosystem, rather than as “owners” of mighty forces beyond our control.  We are guests on earth, and the Father in heaven hosts us.

Philosophically and practically, the owner/steward of a resource has the greatest incentive to protect it and promote its value. Therefore, the majority of societies have found it to be sound economic and environmental policy to vest legal title to land with individuals. The so-called “Tragedy of the Commons,” provides the rationale – the masses tend to overexploit limited community resources, whereas individual owners/stewards tend to protect limited resources. Notably though, there is an opposing perspective that the Tragedy of the Commons is actually a myth – http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9916.

In any case, the distinction between “legal owner” and “steward” may only be semantics. By focusing on title ownership rather than land ownership, society tends to accomplish each of the following goals:

  • Protecting the environment – Legal title helps avoid the tragedy of the commons (overexploitation of the commons by the insatiable hunger of the masses).
  • Promoting economic productivity – Legal title gives individuals the incentive to promote the value of the land’s resources
  • Dealing effectively in legal matters – Legal title is generally all that is needed to become the official steward of a piece of earth with respect to all other human beings on the planet. One couldn’t, and shouldn’t, ask for anything more.
  • Retaining ethical respect for the land – Legal title is a document that humans use to express an interest in land, but it does not (at least theoretically) seek to deprive any other living things of their respective rights. This allows respect for ethical/spiritual views that treat the earth as a living organism, and also respects the rights of animals and other living things to have the opportunity to thrive on the earth.

For more information about being a good steward of the land visit, check out farmer Joel Salatin’s view of what it means to go natural: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/. And also read this author’s expose of the danger of modern pest control practices, and his offer of some natural solutions to promote good stewardship: http://www.stephentvedten.com/
Lastly, for a philosophical view of land ownership and class issues, see the works of Henry George.

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