Hello TPW’ers! All the news I am catching up on will go in the comments as usual but first wanted to say a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ of sorts as the site URL is now a year old though we did not really start posting until further down the road. I thank you for joining me and putting up with all the various frustrations along the way and if you care to voice them in the comments, I’m more than happy to listen! [PS:I found/fixed the disappearing comment bug, so you can cross that off your list for now].
And now on to the news:
We live in a world dominated by the principle of private property. Once indigenous people were dispossessed of their lands, the land was surveyed, subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. From high above, continents now appear as an endless property patchwork of green and yellow farms, beige suburban homes and metallic gray city blocks stretching from sea to shining sea.
The central logic of this regime is productivity, and indeed it has been monstrously productive. In tandem with the industrial revolution, the fruits of billions of acres of dispossessed and parceled indigenous land across the Americas, Africa, Asia, Ireland and Australasia enabled two English-speaking empires—first the British and then the American—to rise to global dominance. The latter remains the most productive economy in the world.
Property also embodies and upholds a set of values and relationships to land. It propagates a utopian vision called the American Dream, wherein hard work, land and a home are platform for boundless opportunity or at least escape from capital domination. It separates humanity from all other animals and cements man’s mastery over the natural world and all living things.
While property has transformed the world, its flaws have never been more apparent. Open land on the frontier, if it ever actually existed for the common man’s taking, is long gone. Homeownership no longer provides the economic security it once did, and appears out of reach for younger generations. The richest one percent holds more wealth than the rest of the world combined. At the same time, environmental degradation and climate change proceed at a terrifying pace.
Our capitalist property regime and economic system have succeeded at producing remarkable surplus. But the benefits of this system too often flow to a small fraction of the population, while land, water, air and people pay the long-term price.