Monday, November 10, 2014

Wendell Berry on the Problem of Private Land Ownership

"We share a common health....

....If we have the "right to life" as we have always supposed, then that right must stand upon the further right to air, water, food, clothing, and shelter.

It follows that every person exercising the right to hold private property has an obligation to secure to the rest of us the right to live from that obligation to use it in such a way as to not impair or diminish our rightful interest in it.

 But --and here is the catch-- that obligation on the part of the landowner implies a concurrent obligation on the part of society as a whole. If we give our proxy to the landowner to use-- and as is always implied, to take care of -- the land on our behalf, then we are obliged to make the landowner able to afford not only to use the land but also to care properly for it.

This is where the grossest error of our civilization shows itself. In giving a few farmers our proxies to produce food in the public behalf for very little economic return we have also given them our proxies to care for the land in the public behalf for no economic return at all. This is our so-called cheap-food policy, which is in fact an antifarming policy, an antifarmer policy, and an antiland policy.

We hold the land under a doctrine of private property that in practice acknowledges no common health."

---from Another Turn of the Crank.  Essays by Wendell Berry.

No comments: