Private Property and Wealth

That objects, regions of physical space and now ideas can be owned (sometimes even including other humans and non-human animals), i.e., held in the protected control of a person or representatives of a person, is an article of faith even more pervasive than faith in religious values. But there is no basis for this belief and assertion other than the power to enforce it. This can be seen with great clarity with the territories of animals. A bit of ground sufficient to live on is marked off in some way appropriate to the species and supported by a willingness to engage in fisticuffs. The property holder most often “wins” since it is on “home ground.” From this simple model we humans have ramped up designs taking the property holder to the exalted and purely mythical state of property owner. And in the typical fashion of most things carried too far, solved a big problem by creating a number of even larger ones.

One way of looking at economics and its servant, the law, is the processes involved in protecting and unprotecting wealth. Every organism protects its wealth; first and foremost, its DNA and then, in some descending order, the designs and devices that protect that primary protection. Bees sting. Squirrels hide food. Ungulates run fast or get big. A katydid hides its own body as a leaf. “Half” of the behaviors of the biological world can be seen as protections of body, sustenance and place. The other “half” can be seen as behaviors that undo the protections of others.

Unprotecting the wealth of others is also called “making a living” whether it is a spider capturing a fly or a businessman enticing a customer into opening a wallet. Though in the case of the spider and the fly, it is necessary to look to the species level to see the mutual advantage; certainly the individual fly has all of its wealth unprotected by the spider. Before humans began to apply their own consciousness processes to protecting and unprotecting wealth the rules were (and are) those that we call evolution.

Ownership is a form of “protecting” wealth. Humans have carried the ritual fighting for place — the place holder almost always has a home-field advantage — into the idea of ownership. Add to “holder-ship,” a biological construct, the idea of agreed on and enforceable rules that define the conditions of “ownership,” and the process of protecting wealth changes from living process to consciousness process. However, the situation has not become “antiseptic,” the force that drives the action has been moved to the human community and is not immediately contained in the individual, that is, the individual must perform protecting and unprotecting behaviors through the community’s social and legal rules.

Immediately, as such social and legal rules are in place, clever humans go to work trying to unprotect the wealth that is protected by those rules. This can be as simple as picking a good spot for a robbery and as complex as finding a way to get a percentage of every person’s production. The human world is replete with cons and Ponzi schemes, abuses of force and skimming, misappropriations of value added and political redistribution by taxation (99 % from the poor to the rich, which is often how it is that wealth happens in the first place! “Redistribution” from the rich to the poor is almost always a correction for the misappropriation of value added).

The key device is property. In the first instance there was no property beyond what a person or a community could protect by direct action: being physically present or threat of force associated with a marking of object or boundary. In the second, property in immediate holding could be “owned” by a person, but the larger holdings were the property of a priestly or kingly class. From this model it was considered a great step forward to the enforceable concept of “private property,” not meaning that “the thing was mine” so much as “the thing was not the king’s.” This idea has been gradually changed to a rather strident rejection of all things communal, but the origin of private property was not the rejection of communal holdings.

Property, especially real estate, can only be owned in the imagination, though the imagination can work its designs into actual sheriffs and armies and so be enforced. The “right” to property considered so important in the early growth of liberal thought arose less from the assumption of a natural right of humans to the earth and more from the power of private property to secure a foot hold in the struggle with hereditary sovereignty (a strengthening political and economic form today).

The assumption that private property is both an absolute right and essential to “correct” human economic and cultural existence is an artifact of history as well as a very useful device in unprotecting the wealth of others (if a plot of land is held communally, the first step to taking it is to get it broken up and held individually). It is also destructive of the whole living enterprise. A wolf pack may hold a territory, but it doesn’t presume to evict the earthworms or the moths, but humans assume such an absolute right. Part of the Madness of our present thinking is that the earth is ours to do with as we wish — an extension of the “holder” to “owner” model into complete societal insanity.

On the one hand, we imagine our preeminence and believe our own imaginings. On the other hand, the rules of property, as they have been formed in the process of making tools to unprotect wealth, allow greater and greater amounts of wealth to be consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Both are powerful forces in maintaining this essentially arbitrary and destructive economic and social design. Those who accumulate wealth have more control over the process of designing the social and legal protections of wealth and so give to themselves the tools to unprotect the wealth of the less powerful.

The idea that the world cannot be owned is countered today with the idea that everything, absolutely everything, should be owned so that all of the earth that humans can touch would be invited into the human economic process. Part of the thinking [sic] is that the Market will (is the only real tool to) correctly value the biophysical space. This is like letting a herd of babies loose in a razorblade factory — an utter mismatch of capacities and needs.

Exactly the opposite is essential; we must find a way to structure in social value and law, i.e., make agreed and enforceable, a new concept of the commons and protect it as well as possible from the forces that will immediately go to work to unprotect it.

We are so deep in the madness and perversion of private property and the primacy of material wealth values that there are no clear options forward. We need to keep our wits about us, a vision before us and be ready. The present Madness is driving us, willing joy-riders and captives alike, rapidly toward a cliff. By all appearances we will not stop. But we can prepare: ourselves with knowledge, our children with adaptability and courage and others by sharing a reality based vision.

(This is part of a series of essays that look at the primary articles of faith that seem normal and essential to our present cultural life, but that are the underlying forces for damage to the biosphere, destruction of our specieshood and ultimately devastating to the most positive qualities of the cultural life we are trying to sustain.)

James Keye is the nom de plume of a biologist and psychologist who after discovering a mismatch between academe and himself went into private business for many years. His whole post-pubescent life has been focused on understanding at both the intellectual and personal levels what it is to be of the human species; he claims some success. Email him at: Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

28 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on August 19th, 2008 at 8:46am #

    i’m glad that someone is writing about private ownership. private ownership is a bane. clergy and solzhenitsin approve of that because it enslaves many people. thank u

  2. evie said on August 19th, 2008 at 10:09am #

    Shucks I cain’t wait to be a clone of the State (king) and live in the commons with Joe Bob and Tyrone.

    “A wolf pack may hold a territory, but it doesn’t presume to evict the earthworms or the moths, but humans assume such an absolute right.”

    Worms and moths are not a threat to the pack’s environment. Introduce several more wolf packs and they will fight for territory (evict). And there’s that thing – pack loyalty to a top dog.

    Ownership is also incentive, motivation which sometimes leads to creativity, innovation, blah blah blah.

    While I agree with a few items on the socialist agenda – I do not want to lower my lifestyle (hard earned) to lift those who do not want to earn theirs – and there’s plenty of that gimme-gimme attitude in the human pack/herd.

    I guess I’m that part of nature that believes in survival of the fittest.

  3. Deadbeat said on August 19th, 2008 at 10:46am #

    evie says…

    I guess I’m that part of nature that believes in survival of the fittest.

    If you are John McCain-like rich or in the top 1% who controls about 90% of the wealth in the U.S. then you’d have something to worry about. Obama’s cutoff is $250,000.00 which is a reasonable cutoff. Ralph Nader has put forward a plan whereby everyone making less then $100,000.00 would pay no income tax which the revenue coming from a sales tax on stock market transactions. Clearly Obama and Nader are not socialists yet such modest plans will have a redistributive effect.

    The point is that Capitalism is a great ponzi scheme and everyday those hard working people are being robbed by the system itself. Their time and labor value is giving to the capitalist in order to survive. The “survival of the fittest” is unnatural in Capitalism because the only reason why the Capitalist “survive” is totally artificial and NOT natural.

    Your rhetoric evie displays a total ignorance regarding what Socialism is and considering that you are African American a total disregard of your history.

  4. James Keye said on August 19th, 2008 at 12:32pm #

    Dear Evie and Dear Deadbeat,

    It is entertaining to read your apparently continuing argument, but it has almost nothing to do with my essay. I intentionally did not frame my position as capitalism vs. socialism (or communism). These are variations for the detail of design of our present beliefs and values. The changes in our thinking and presumptions need to be far more fundamental. Private property and wealth serve many needs in our societies, but they are like opiate drugs: once addicted we can’t live without them, but they are also killing us, and the biosphere that ultimately sustains the wonder of life in a dead universe. The potential exists for humans to use their capacity of imagination to create ways of extracting necessary resources and organizing exchange that do not also damage the biosphere and diminish our humanity, what I call our specieshood. If we cannot, then we will be impoverished beyond imagining.

  5. DanE said on August 19th, 2008 at 1:41pm #


    For a long time I didn’t realize how valuable is your exposure of yourself here on DV. But now I do: your every utterance reveals to us non-property-owners more and more of a mental world utterly strange to us, i.e., how the mind of a petty capitalist rationalizes & justifies to his/herself their anti-human, anti-mammal, anti-life actions and way of life.
    I’ve often wondered how Black enemies of Black people in general justify to themselves what they do, so I’m grateful to you for being so candid. By the way, I find you totally disgusting, as well as a threat to the longterm welfare of my African American relatives, therefore to the whole family.

    You crack me up, openly telling the world you think you’re entitled to three houses when women with children are sleeping in the street or vacant lots, in places where rape and robbery are the rule.

    Well, I could go on to dissect every argument you present, but they’re too corny & I have to maintain this property I’m renting. So let me just point out one of the most egregious classic fallacies underlying your idea of what’s happening: you assume that you “built” your restaurant business, when most of the work was and is done by employees, who far as you are concerned don’t have any right to any of what you’ve accumulated since you paid them the wage they agreed to accept when they came to work.
    What you ignore is that these persons only presented themselves to you as potential “employees” because everything they needed to stay alive was “owned” by somebody else, that is by one or another member of the class of “owners”, including yourself. So you got rich by taking advantage of an unfair situation.

    I myself am not a paragon of virtue; I’m not going to go into detail but there’s plenty I’m embarrassed about. So I’m really glad to encounter somebody like you who makes me look somewhat better by comparison.

    Because you know what, Sister Evie? You really stink. Funny thing is, in your heart of hearts you know it, which is why you spend all this time & energy trying to justify yourself;)

    Well, as Satchel Paige usta say, “Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you”:)

  6. evie said on August 19th, 2008 at 5:16pm #

    Did I say I was entitled?

    I have earned most of it. I’m not “rich” by any means. And some of us do build our businesses. We spent 18 hour days at work for years, often in different places. We built one of the houses years ago with our own hands, literally, b/c we couldn’t afford anyone else. My kids knew what a job was at 12 y/o b/c we had them scrubbing at work – now I’m guilty of child labor right?

    And I still put in many days at work simply b/c I enjoy cooking and baking and having people appreciate good food.

    Of course employees are not getting equal shares in what we’ve accumulated – but they didn’t take equal risk if we had lost our shirts on any venture either. Hey – we do provide medical, dental, and eye – and we could be saving a bundle if we didn’t.

    Too many people think the world owes them something yet they are unwilling to sacrifice the time and energy to get anywhere. Or they want to live on credit and bail out when they blow it – like the big boys do.

    I don’t know who you think is gonna pay for the utopian State you dream of – but I do know what the citizens of Utopia will give up. While I have agreed to some points in socialism – listening to diatribes preached by the likes of deadbeat sour even those points. Why would anyone name themselves deadbeat?

    James –
    You speak of the potential that exists – where and how do we reach it? It all sounds good, humane, earthy – but accomplishing it is another story, and I’ve no illusion that ending private property/wealth will change anything – we just get new bosses in the community (chosen by majority vote of course) who will dole out according to our needs.

  7. James Keye said on August 19th, 2008 at 6:20pm #

    Dear DB,

    You say: “where and how do we reach it? It all sounds good, humane, earthy – but accomplishing it is another story(.)” The odds are against making large changes in the human condition, but if a growing number keep before them a vision of possibility two things will be accomplished (1) opportunities can be responded to when and if they occur and (2) we will pay attention to the qualities of our own lives and make them better no what else happens.

  8. Brian Koontz said on August 19th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    “The potential exists for humans to use their capacity of imagination to create ways of extracting necessary resources and organizing exchange that do not also damage the biosphere and diminish our humanity, what I call our specieshood. If we cannot, then we will be impoverished beyond imagining.”

    It’s not a matter of having solutions – it’s a matter of being able to implement them.

    Once someone has the power to implement a solution he’ll achieve a solution quickly. It’s not lack of imagination that’s the problem – it’s lack of power.

    Capitalists have all the power, and they have no interest in your words. The people who have interest in your words have no power, and therefore have no interest in imagining something that they’ll never have the power to realize.

    Ideas and even changes of consciousness are really pretty easy. What’s not easy is gaining the power necessary to put such ideas and consciousness into positive reality.

    This is why people don’t take extreme environmentalists seriously (those who propose vast changes to human society). It’s not that these people don’t have good ideas or popular ideas – it’s that capitalists will never allow those ideas to be realized, so there’s no point in pursuing them. That’s why the ideas that *are* taken seriously are those that can be integrated into capitalism (that can be exploited by capitalists). It’s not that these ideas are any better (in most cases they are clearly worse) – it’s that they are achievable.

    It’s like the chicken and the egg – the egg is power and the chicken is the reforms that develop from power (from a change in the identity of the power-holder). Too many people believe somehow that the reverse is true.

    Likewise, there’s little point in voting for McKinney or Nader, because the capitalists will never allow them to become president. We must first remove the ability of capitalists to prevent them from becoming president.

    Power always comes first. Only such ideas that *produce* power are worthwhile to pursue. Only such chickens that will lay eggs. Until power is achieved the only value of an idea is as a political force.

  9. Joseph Danison said on August 19th, 2008 at 7:48pm #

    Presumably, humans in an aboriginal condition understand the world differently than “modern” people. The American Indians could not conceive of our notion of private property because they experienced the world and their place in it in a way unfamiliar to us today. They saw themselves as members of an animal community, whereas we do not have that understanding. They were one among a large number of living creatures that all shared the planet together. The “commons” was not merely property held in common with all other species, it was a living system that James Lovelock has named “Gaia”, recognized as the source of all living things, yet also with a distinct identity of its own, implied by the name Gaia. The commons was the common source, or, the mother. It had a metaphysical reality, a spiritual reality, as it were.

    Of course, we modern intellectuals steeped in science are scandalized by this anthropomorphism. It is naive. It is the mystical participation with the natural world that is the distinguishing feature of the true aboriginal weltangschaung. Gaia is not a mother, for crissake, Gaia is an ecological system, that is to say, a vast and complex machine, a natural machine, like a cell is a natural machine, like all living things are biomachines. We will eventually understand the subtleties and crack the algorithms involved and create biomachines to suit our purposes. I’m not going to hug and tree and say “Hi, Mom!”. I’m going to calculate the board feet of lumber in that tree, the price the Japanese will pay for it, and then cut the fucker down if the environmental assessment indicates the loss of that tree will not cause the hillside to collapse. Then for relaxation, I will go home and fuck my mother up the ass.

    And why not? Why not eliminate all these primitive feelings, these aboriginal vestiges of relationship, and just live a life of pure reason, utility, and enlightened self-interest? Yes, own the earth, get your slice, rip the shit right out of it to find the gold and the oil, but always remember to abide by the site reclamation laws, or at least devise some proxy scheme of ownership so you’ll never have to pay those costs, which can be onerous.

    Friends, the reality of the commons is rising up to torture us all. It is gathering force in the collective memory to emerge as a living nightmare. We are beginning to experience “climate change”, the early stages of global ecological dysfunction. There is no political explanation and no political solution because it is not a political issue. It is a matter of the heart and a question of identity. Who the fuck are we?

    Dog is love.

  10. PlasticDoor said on August 19th, 2008 at 9:49pm #

    I just have SUCH a problem with people who assume — based on pure unadulterated propaganda — that communism would mean a centralized economy and all that shite. Bluntly: it would not.

    It would not because the likelihood is proportional to the TYPE of communism. That demands that people think. Socialism IS communism; so is every bit of New Testament rhetoric. Old Testament rhetoric is blind capitalism. (And I mean no disrespect for the present heirs of the Old Testament.) The point is: the *ethics* of these philosophies of living within communities are radically opposed to each other, and (with no particular endorsement of New Testament adherents) Jebus was a communist.

    Evie thinks that because she “did it herself” she IS entitled to everything she believes, as is writ herein. It IS a class thing, and it IS a race thing. I can damn well tell Evie, or anybody, what their history is. History is not a private little garden. So, to *that* argument, I will simply say: . I can read. And the apocryphal stories handed down from Granny are NOT history; they’re tales, filtered thru just as much that filters “history” as not. History is as much what we forget as what we remember.

    Every and any pump MUST be primed for it to work. The graceful and truly productive engine of economy must be primed, and that is (a) expensive, and (b) the ONUS of the *class* that has the wherewithal in excess. Period. It does not by any means translate as an ownership of that pump! If you want to hide behind denying God or whatever to save your ass from having to pay you FAIR (not equitable) *share,* that would make you a bigot. If you want to hide *with* God and all that, then you HAVE to also recognize that absolutely everything Jesus preached is communism.

    Unless you don’t understand what communism is.

    And THAT is the real case.

    As regards Joseph Danison’s case, you’ve got yer heart in the right place, but don’t blind yourself: it IS a political issue. It is most DEFINITELY a political issue. The commons is no more; it’s robbed by plunderers and surrounded by hookers.

    Two thoughts: (1) Do unto others, and (2) don’t shit in your own nest. That will solve the question of community under any conditions.

  11. Hue Longer said on August 20th, 2008 at 1:43am #

    ownership spawns creativity? And here in this world of ownership we are left with their at best banausic examples to point to, because owners think their success must be beautiful and appreciated by all. And the workers underneath them must really be honing their creative skills trying to stay alive with dignity…oh the art that is around us!

  12. AJ NAsreddin said on August 20th, 2008 at 3:26am #

    Private ownership works. There have been many studies done – economic, political, anthropological – all showing that private property is better for people than publicly held communal property. All the studies show, including one done by the Chinese government in the ‘80s, that people care more about their personal property than they do for communal property. It seems part of human nature that if their stake in something is not personal, they could generally care less about what happens to it. In order to compensate for this lack of deference, the “community” – usually led by some charismatic figure – must enforce care by some means, sometimes by any means. In past primitive societies, people may have been merely kicked out of the community – going back tens of thousands of years that may have been a death sentence.

    Lest anyone forget, communal property is always companioned with brutal, over controlling governments in proportion to the amount of wealth available. Sure, people look at the idyllic life of the Native Americans or other similar societies in past centuries, but they had limited wealth. In smaller groups, such as a tribe, people also have a voice. In larger societies, a ruling elite emerges which will be happy to tell the masses what they can or cannot do with the communal wealth while being equally deaf to their voice. I can’t imagine anyone willing to give up their freedom to be told what they can buy or not, what they have to produce or not. No one wants to live on an animal farm.

    I also am not claiming that the western, credit-based capitalism is the answer – clearly it is the root of many problems the world is facing today. Part of the biggest problem is that western capitalistic democracies have removed direct responsibility from people. The CEO of a company is rarely held responsible for the poisoning of the environment and the killing thereby of people effected from the “company’s actions.” The company may be fined, heavily even, but this is just as easily written off as a business expense for the company. Imagine how different the world would be if the people in the company responsible for deadly pollution were treated like any individual criminal. I’m sure Texas would be the cleanest state rather than the biggest polluter – no CEO would like to see himself strapped to a table to get a lethal injection.

    What is important for me is that people regain their humanity. Keye’s assumption, I believe, is essentially flawed because he is still working within the framework of an economic philosophy mixed in with biological arguments. He might reach his aims better if he went off and joined the Rosicrucians – their argument that over population being a real danger to the existence of our species has more sense than Keye’s argument. We have removed our biggest predator – diseases – without adjusting our mindset of how we wish to live on this planet. Other biological organisms, when their predators are removed, overwhelm their environment and kill it, eventually killing themselves as well. Humans are no different – other than having the mind to understand the process.

    My belief is that economic systems will not help. People need to gain a spiritual understanding that other people are valuable, not as a resource, commodity, or consumer, but as human beings. I personally believe the Protestant mindset of God given rights to consume the resources of the Earth is the underlying idea that is driving us to destruction. We have a God given responsibility to care for the Earth – at least as it is stated in the Qur’an. Though this idea has been largely ignored due to the vastness of the planet, it is an idea relevant to the times we live in today. Today we must all look more closely at how we use our resources and the way we need to care for the planet – not just for people, but for all the flora and fauna of the planet.

    In Islam, one of our underlying ideas is that what you own, owns you equally. If you don’t want to be a slave, give up your possessions. Damned if I’ll be enslaved by the State or the State’s communal property!

  13. AJ Nasreddin said on August 20th, 2008 at 7:04am #

    Hue, I gave up all my possessions except the tools of my trade (some books and a computer), my clothes, and a prayer rug in accordance to the teachings of the Sufi order that I belong to. The tools of trade are allowed by virtue of keeping us from being a burden on society by seeking out our sustenance through begging – i.e. we ought to be self-sufficient when it comes to our normal, daily living expenses. Our clothes are allowed in order to cover our nakedness and retain our dignity. The prayer rug is so that we may stand before God at any time or place without being at a loss of where to pray.

    What about you, Hue? What are your thoughts on the matter?

    Bozhidar, take a look at:

  14. Max Shields said on August 20th, 2008 at 9:19am #

    James Keye,

    Have you looked at Henry George’s Progress and Poverty?

    Georgist arguments are premised on all wealth being derived directly or indirectly from land – both terra firma as well as all natural resources. There simply is no human wealth without access to natural resources.

    In a brilliant synthesis of this thinking, H. George makes it clear that the distribution of wealth is best (only) achieved through a rent applied to the use of the resources – particularly but not exclusively land – and that that rent would go back to the community where the resources are reside.

    The economics behind this has been astoundingly replicated throughout the world but it has also, like all applications, a “loser” -capitalist resource privatization. This “loser”, today, is where the centers of power reside.

    Western neo-classical economics (incorporated in the ruling class) has made every attempt to erase George’s profound and replicable work in the academic community. Even Marx is allowed to have a voice – however shunted (after all didn’t your hear “communism failed per Soviet Union) – as long as neo-classical economics which would privatize the commons which is essentially everything on earth (and perhaps beyond) continues to dominate the planet creating waste lands and urban slums as it rapes the earth and the labors of its inhabitants.

    The very act of privatization has been a trajectory started during the times of conquest and continued with great enthusiasm in the USA. Our glorious preditory capitalism is based on it.

    This is not a “battle” which can be waged on a large scale. It is possible to attain the kind of fair distribution of wealth through a process of communal rent. This does not eliminate the “ownership” of those things provided by capital and labor. So, a home, for example, would be owned by one or more individuals through a deed; BUT the land foot-print would be common property – humans do not make land, BUT they create the value of land. So a rent (or tax) would be applied to the land and other resource use, and not to those things created through capital and labor.

    This aligns t the notion of taking (land) only what one needs and not hoarding and speculating off the “fat” of the land which is how the wealthy 1% become the wealthy 1% at the expense of the other 99%.

    I do think that this is only part of the answer, but absolutely NECESSARY if there is to be a fair distribution of wealth. The other parts can be obtained through models of shared business (cooperative) and community ownership whereby the work relationships are democratically based and where owner/manger/employee become one and the same, thus reducing the tension between those persons in today’s Western (US) business/work environments. We see working examples throughout the globe. These should be nurtured and used as a point of learning and building.

    The issue of our economics with its unsustainablity is nothing less than an issue of specises survival – Human species.

  15. brs said on August 20th, 2008 at 10:07am #

    There is probably nothing wrong with private ownership of what you have earned . The passage of ownership between generations is a problem. It creates a belief in entitlement of the heirs. They do not have to work to earn their position. It creates class division. We are not all in this together. It concentrates wealth, keeping it out of the hands of those who will produce with it. Most current wealth generation is not productive. It is just moving money from one pocket to another. Finance capitalism is not productive. Very little of it goes to creative or productive activity. Any that does is accidental. These people believe that the only goal of a business is to make money. If there is no more to it than that, then there is nothing to distinguish a business from the Mafia. Kind of like the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition in the Star Trek series. Most of this thinking comes from generations of people who have not worked for their money in any real sense and would not know how. Abraham Lincoln said: ” Labor is prior to and independent of capital. All capital comes from labor.” Today inherited capital is enshrined and labor downgraded.

  16. Max Shields said on August 20th, 2008 at 11:52am #

    brs “Today inherited capital is enshrined and labor downgraded.”

    Yes, partly. The first issue is that “land” is subsumed under capital and thus made invisible under neo-classical economics – the way of neoliberal free trade and the Chicago School of Econ (M. Friedman).

    Once land was eliminated from the simple equation of land-labor-capital the very privatization and preditory nature of capitalism particularly as enshrined in corporatism – became what we know today – was swarmed the planet. It is not the only turn in the road that has given us this death knell economic system.

    As labor struggled and found some power in the early and mid-20th Century, it precipitously lost it in the 1980s and on ward to present day. But that “power” was ephemeral because it was not soundly grounded on land and access to it and other resources essential to the creation of wealth. In other words, unions and the like were not only corruptable but did not provide more than a modicum of power to labor.

    With land squarely on the page and the re-creation of our business models around the notion of worker ownership we have the beginning of radical and fundamental change. I would add but one more component – universal human needs. Without a clear understanding and application of UHN we will be forever in an unsustainable trajectory. Why? Because the purpose of work is currently narrow and based on the material. Understanding universal human needs closes that gap and acknowledges those finite interrelated needs which are mostly non-material. It ends confusion of what a human need is – of what it is to be human. Materialism (accent on ism) is not a human need. Needing a new dress or coat or car is not a human NEED. Clothing, yes, food, yes, shelter, yes, security, yes. But those needs are really ONE – the need for sustenance. There are at least 8 other needs which have to do with human development and communality – essential to the quality of life itself.

    So, here’s what I would offer;
    1) re-establishing land (and all natural resources) as a visiable and shared economic based on the laws of rent,
    2)re-invention of worker based businesses,
    3) and rejection of an economics based soley on pathalogically marketed sustenance which gives way to an obescity of the mind, and shift toward a holistic acknowledgement and fulfillment of universal human needs…

    Together will lead us to an alignment of the human species with the natural order of life. Fascism is the alternative.

  17. James Keye said on August 20th, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    Mr. Shields,

    It may be that the equation is so simple as number of people compared to land area and resource supply; that the designs of excess use and geometric increase are the inevitable outcomes. But, we do not know. The ‘isms’ are only designs around a common model of growth and excess, and, while effecting who has what, do not ultimately change the end result: that growth is limited to one side of the homeostatic curve. The other side is diminution and contraction.

    It is our unique human adaptations that have brought us to this moment and it will the depth and range of those adaptations that determine our future. I can see a possibility for consciousness order processes to reengage the biophysical reality and guide us to reconnect our economic designs with the natural economy of the biosphere. Failing that such a reconnection will certainly be made without our participation and assistance.

  18. James Keye said on August 20th, 2008 at 12:30pm #

    I am heartened by the interest in these issues, and the quality of ideas presented in the comments. I would only suggest that the present named forms of economic order are only that. New, undiscovered, and old, recovered, ways of valuing the objects and events around us are needed. These things happen from the roots. Press on with the vision of a material economy that sustains and a living economy of spirit that grows. The vast multitude has been playing in a psychopathic game of material excess that they do not actually believe in, but it is the only game that we have a language for and so it seems that we all are in agreement. I disagree with the person who claims that it is all about power. It is all about holding and projecting a vision of the world we want. A vision can be the flowing water on the granite rock of power.

  19. brs said on August 20th, 2008 at 12:44pm #

    Mr. Shields
    Your thoughts are interesting regarding land and resources. Perhaps we cannot own things we do not create. Ownership of resources or land has not carried the responsibility to use them wisely at least in recent times. Clean up of environmental messes has been socialized or ignored to a remarkable degree by large, wealthy corporations. Mountaintop removal and the Superfund list come to mind.

    That points to another barrier to a humane, sustainable system. Corporations are a shield and barrier to personal responsibility. Union Carbide killed 3500 or more in Bhopal and no one has been responsible. I have known people who used corporate bankruptcy to shield significant personal assets from the effect of poor business decisions and failure while businesses who sold goods to them had to absorb the losses.

  20. bozhidar balkas said on August 20th, 2008 at 1:05pm #

    to me, the most basic consideration is the fact (i evaluate it as such) that there is in most or all lands a payer-payee relationship. or one cld say, a master/serf relationship.
    one is a serf if one does not own work/work place.
    millennia or eons ago all people, i deduce, worked. there was no work ‘givers’. and people were joyful; eager to begin any task.
    they all ate. probably living is small groups, no child was left behind or out. there was no grading of children; no dogmas, doctrines, gov’t.
    they sat in circles; there was no dais, podium.
    there was no divisements. every person was of equal value. nobody was praised nor rebuked. else, we wouldn’t have survived.
    but then came mad priests and an odd deviant/psychopath and everything over many yrs was stood onits head.
    and to present days…… thank u

  21. Hue Longer said on August 20th, 2008 at 3:01pm #


    I applaud you and though I am a hypocrite, it doesn’t change what I notice to be true…that being a game competitor in the practice of accumulating wealth by managing/exploiting labor- including one’s own, doesn’t lead to creativity outside of the practice of doing it.

    I was just responding to something Evie said.

  22. cg said on August 20th, 2008 at 6:45pm #

    AJ Nasreddin,
    Your commitment, intentions and actions are truly commendable and civilized. Far from being a no no, they are a can’t do for 99% of humanity. The humility alone would cause the atheists to pass out.
    Saying that ‘science’ has proved that God does not exist is like saying that science has proved that beauty does not exist.

    “This Krishna Consciousness is a science to understand what is the difference between a dead body and a living body.”
    (A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

  23. AJ Nasreddin said on August 21st, 2008 at 3:09am #

    MrSynec3, I do not mean to offend. However, there is a good reason why you find the study of Economics in the College of Liberal Arts – it’s a social science, much like politics and religion. Social science is only a science because we have decided so – most of what goes on is not scientific at all.

    My point was to bring to light the thinking process that we in western societies have inherited from the past. If you look back to the more religious times of the 19th century and before, most economists and businesspeople express the idea that everything on Earth was given to mankind by God to use. Although some people no longer believe in God, the idea remains. It’s much like “Thou shalt not steal” is still accepted without having to develop a new philosophical argument just because some might think the Bible is fiction. Other religions and philosophies have the idea of caring for the Earth rather than exploiting it. I’m just speaking from what I know.

    Moreover, there are many other ways to look at the world. I am not exalting my own religion, merely citing my source. My second comments are in response to Hue, whose question has been deleted.

  24. MrSynec3 said on August 21st, 2008 at 6:19am #

    To editor,

    Why you removed my comment on AJ Nasreddin message. I think
    my message raised a valid question and I was not out of line in any way??!!

  25. Max Shields said on August 21st, 2008 at 1:35pm #

    The importance of a topic, in this case, economics, should not be gauged by whether or not it “scientific” (scientism is in fact another ideology when we look at it as dogma); but rather to think of it from the natural perspective Mr. Keye is offering here. In other words, the context of this article is valid and valuable.

    Economics – while a human devised word – has a place in the ecosystem and thus the natural order. More importantly how we apply economies creates a prism by which we relate to one an other and the universe as a whole. That’s like EVERYTHING. So, while we can debate and argue the value of a particular economic theory or the economist – persona – economics is vital to existence.

    That said, Mr. Keye I’d suggest you take a look at this link to learn more about 21st Century Georgist economics as applied to the environmental and resource usage (and population).

  26. MrSynec3 said on August 21st, 2008 at 1:48pm #

    AJ Nasreddin,

    You wrote:
    “I am not exalting my own religion, merely citing my source”. But that is the point , that is not the right forum to bring religious arguments and
    religion is not relevant in this discussion. Regarding religion, people of the same religion have completely different views regarding properties and money.
    Besides, what is your execuse for attacking another religion and exalting your own religion.
    You wrote:
    “I personally believe the Protestant mindset of God given rights to consume the resources of the Earth is the underlying idea that is driving us to destruction. We have a God given responsibility to care for the Earth – at least as it is stated in the Qur’an.”
    Lest you think I am biased against or for certain religion, as
    I mentioned before I am an atheist and in my humble opinion all
    religions are bunch of fairy tales full of conradictions and open to numerous conflicting interpretations. Sometimes they provide guidance and comfort in life but in other times they are big obstacles
    against practical fulfilled life. And in other times they could be the
    source of so much harted, bloodshed and extreme violence among people.
    Again, that goes for all religions without any exception.

  27. AJ NAsreddin said on August 25th, 2008 at 2:33am #

    MrSynec3, your opinion that religion has no place in this discussion is absurd. Why must people only refer to economic or business philosophies in such a discussion? My religion, Islam, is a religion based on law – much like Judaism but much unlike Christianity. If a Muslim or a Jew – or anyone else – wishes to express an idea on economics based on what is important to her or his religion, I don’t see the problem in that.

    Furthermore, I am talking about one idea of rights vs. responsibilities. I am not making any broad judgments about any religion. If you wish, I admit to attacking ONE idea from Protestant Christianity and supporting its antithesis in my own religion.

    Religion is something that is important to billions of people, regardless of your atheistic ideas. Personally, I’d trust God over Greenspan any time.

  28. The Historian said on August 18th, 2009 at 9:05am #

    “I personally believe the Protestant mindset of God given rights to consume the resources of the Earth is the underlying idea that is driving us to destruction.

    what an absurd rhetorical generalization