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Andres Aullet


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Private Property: Should everything in the world be owned?

Private ownership is a right that is taken for granted by many in western countries.

Originally the concept was primarily used to deal with land ownership (at least that was the case in the USA during the days of the Revolution), but nowadays it has been extended to ideas, meta-data about ideas, and derivatives of ideas. In some extreme cases we see people considering future profits as a property that must be protected in the same way as any other private property

Needless to say, private ownership as it relates to material goods (let's leave intellectual property to the side for a moment) is a "right" that is bound to find limits because 1) people whose life depend on certain private property denied to them will attempt to acquire it and 2) even if nobody wants to acquire our private property, the world has physically limits and that sets a restriction to what can be owned.

I would argue that there are still a lot of material resources that are not owned by anybody. The air. The sea. Entire ecosystems. Think about technology that could enable us to extract minerals from the moon, or from the bottom of the sea, or gather energy from deep underground. Should we declare that everything that is not currently private property should be claimed by someone? And if so, should we take a civilized approach to this transition or should we use the old (maybe still current) rule of "the strongest gets the lion's share"?

What purpose does private property serve in a society?

Are there instances where there is direct conflict between the individual right to private property and the common good? How should that conflict be handled as a society, as a civilization?


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    Jan 6 2012: I live in the Marshall Islands, on thoroughly Christianized Majuro atoll. Throughout the RMI there is a real problem of theft, and if one plants papaya trees nearly all the fruit will be stolen. Normally, the gardener gives up in frustration. (I hand pollinated my papaya flowers each day, its was a bit of work). Because of land inheritance, and the inability to buy land, people stay put, and typically grandparents raise their grandchildren, the parents often drink too much or are too irresponsible to take care of their own kids. The society, over-populated by the largess of the US welfare system (as a redress to the nuclear testing) is in crisis, with the highest rates of alcoholism, suicide and teenage pregnancy in the Pacific. Yet because land is not sold, people have not been thrown off their "weto" (so it could be worse!) except where the local chief has allowed a Chinese business to be built in exchange for money. Thus anti Chinese racism prevails (my wife, a published poet, is Chinese but a native born Arizonan, and receives more than her share of this hatred) Money is the cause of Majuro's downfall, and needs its own conversation. Private property can lead to good stewardship and development (i.e, a tall fence will encourage papaya cultivation), but money often causes liquidation of nature and other evils.

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