Land Ownership

The reforms discussed below are not currently part of our manifesto and will need explicit approval from the membership to become party policy. However, they do cover issues which would fall foul of our proposed requirement for coherent law and are therefore areas where reform of some kind is likely to be necessary.

The issue of how land should be allocated lies at the heart of the law and if we are to build a just society we must make sure that land law is fundamentally sound. But our current laws governing the ownership of land have not been properly maintained and are now essentially derelict: they are no longer consistent with the principles which gave rise to them and they are incompatible with modern values.

Those derelict laws are at the root of social and economic inequality and Local Sovereignty’s position is that simply trying to mitigate their ill-effects will never provide a satisfactory foundation for a healthy society. Land law needs to be fundamentally reformed.

That presents significant challenges, because land ownership is central to the operation of the economic system, and reform cannot be done quickly without risking the stability of the whole system. But we believe that, over the course of a generation or so, it can be made fair in a way which does not jeopardise the stability and flexibility that the current system provides.

The reforms we believe are necessary involve:

  1. Clarifying inheritance law, to restore its primary purpose as a method of passing on responsibility rather than wealth.more
  2. Establishing explicitly that all ownership of land includes an element of trusteeship (i.e. all landowners are trustees for future generations, and owners of all agricultural and industrial land are trustees for the public at large whose survival and well-being depends on them).more
  3. Separating the market in land (which is fixed in quantity) from the market in man-made goods and services (which can be expanded without limit), by establishing a separate, fixed-quantity currency for trading in land.more
  4. Establishing a right for every native citizen to inherit a fair share of the nation’s natural resources in the form of the above-mentioned land currency.more

The reforms outlined here are intended to allow for a relatively smooth transition to a new framework of ownership, over a generation or two, with as little active redistribution as possible. They would therefore not directly address current problems caused by inequality. However, there almost certainly would be immediate benefits for two reasons: because land would no longer be regarded as a store of wealth, the way it is currently; and because it would be possible to introduce temporary mitigating measures which, in the absence of  a long-term solution, would be dismissed as unsustainable.

2 Responses to Land Ownership

  1. A great deal of thought have gone into these reform proposals, and I commend them for being quite visionary whilst attempting to deal with the root of the challenges facing the world in regard to environmental protection and climate change. In regard to No.3, “separating the market in land from the market in man-made goods and services by establishing a separate, fixed-quantity currency for trading in land”, I have a simple question. Would not a fixed-quantity currency cause land price inflation of that land valued in that currency?

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    • Thanks for the comment and question, Mark. The short answer is that inflation wouldn’t be possible, precisely because both the quantity of land and the quantity of currency are fixed: if the price of one bit of land goes up, the price of other land would have to go down because there would be less currency available to buy it.

      In practice, it is rather more complicated than that and the system would need a certain amount of management. As in any currency system, price stability will depend primarily on the relationship between the supply of land currently available to buy and the amount of currency in active circulation (rather than the relationship between the total stock of land and the total stock of currency). So, in practice, the amount of land currency in active circulation would need to be managed, to keep it in line with the amount of land currently on the market.

      That wouldn’t be particularly difficult as long as the currency is issued in a form that doesn’t allow people to hoard it (which is the main reason inflation is such a problem with ordinary currency – as I discuss in my page on monetary reform). However, there are certainly details to be worked out on that.

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