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Land ownership and permaculture

 
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Honestly, any form of land use (ownership, coop, commune, etc.) will work *if* the people involved are wise and careful about how they use it.  Any form of land use will fail if the people involved are NOT wise and careful about how they use it.  Neither capitalism and private ownership nor socialism and public ownership are inherently wrong, it's human nature that fails.  And I have to say that since I've never seen an example of communism/socialism that actually worked for very long if at all, I think that capitalism/private ownership probably works best for the longest period of time, but even this does eventually fail simply because the dregs of humanity tend to rise to the top and make all the decisions (good people have no desire to run everyone else's business, so by default the sociopaths and psychopaths end up with the job).

Kathleen
 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Neither capitalism and private ownership nor socialism and public ownership are inherently wrong, it's human nature that fails.



Human nature works fine. Systems designed around a misunderstanding of it, are what fails.

I think many of the problems with socialism can be addressed by a balance of power between the public and private sectors, as seen in most of the "mixed" economies of Europe.

Similarly, many of the problems of capitalism can be addressed with some sort of policy of subsidiarity. There are fewer examples of this, but the Mondragon co-ops can often compete with multinational corporations, without creating any special niche for a pathologically bossy person.
 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
I have to say that since I've never seen an example of communism/socialism that actually worked for very long if at all



Many non-civilized societies are communistic/socialistic in the sense that everything belongs to everyone in the group - there's no private property.  This is how humans lived for most of our time on Earth and how we are best adapted to live.  This form of society also does not have any "bosses" - they are non-hierarchical.

http://tobyspeople.com/anthropik/2005/09/thesis-7-humans-are-best-adapted-to-band-life/index.html
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I'm still reading Small is Beautiful.

There's a great passage I read today, about how ownership isn't as central as either capitalists or socialists hope, systems of organization being (in his view) much more of a determining factor in how a firm is run.

Several chapters on the topic of this thread, toward the back of the book, seem important to the practice of permaculture.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Ludi wrote:
Many non-civilized societies are communistic/socialistic in the sense that everything belongs to everyone in the group - there's no private property.  This is how humans lived for most of our time on Earth and how we are best adapted to live.  This form of society also does not have any "bosses" - they are non-hierarchical.

http://tobyspeople.com/anthropik/2005/09/thesis-7-humans-are-best-adapted-to-band-life/index.html



These societies are very small-scale, though.  They don't have political 'leaders' thousands of miles away trying to control their lives; they do what they do voluntarily for the good of their own families and friends -- people that they KNOW.  It can work on that scale, but not on a much larger scale such as was tried in Russia, and as is being attempted in this country (they aren't completely there yet, but are headed that way).

Kathleen
 
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Ludi wrote:
Many non-civilized societies are communistic/socialistic in the sense that everything belongs to everyone in the group - there's no private property.  This is how humans lived for most of our time on Earth and how we are best adapted to live.  This form of society also does not have any "bosses" - they are non-hierarchical.

http://tobyspeople.com/anthropik/2005/09/thesis-7-humans-are-best-adapted-to-band-life/index.html



Yes, and in modern terms, we would call these people living in crushing poverty.  So called socialist societies only work up to the size of the dunbar number.  Even with that premise granted, the societies themselves operate in a private fashion with respect to other societies.

You have to remember what capital really is: the goods that enable you to produce consumer goods.  So if you are everr to get above a subsistence level, you need tools and methods that allow you to gather and create the resources you need to survive.

So if you are primitive John, you may very well share everytng with your tribe of 60 others, but there is no way you are just going to make 500 atlatls and hand them out to every other tribe you see just because you are a nice guy.  The time and resources it takes to create those tools have a real cost that have to produce a real benefit (the difference being profit), whether or not you measure this profit in money, time, food, or anything else is irrelevant.

Socialist organizational structures don't work and can not work because they refuse to measure these costs, benefits, and profits.  Ignoring them doesn't make them go away though.

I was kind of hoping my response here wouldn't get too abstract, but oh well
 
Tyler Ludens
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In talking about intentional communities (this forum) I'm guessing we're mostly talking about small groups. 

So I'm not sure why socialist organization wouldn't work within a small group. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Ludi wrote:
In talking about intentional communities (this forum) I'm guessing we're mostly talking about small groups. 

So I'm not sure why socialist organization wouldn't work within a small group. 



It will, for a while, if everyone is good decent people and are in agreement on how things ought to work. 

Kathleen
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Ludi wrote:I'm not sure why socialist organization wouldn't work within a small group.



Not to harp on E. F. Schumacher, but he mentions that small-enough organizations can be run autocratically, and their cute diminutiveness makes them seem like a quaint family arrangement.

I'm not sure I agree with him. I'm what one might call a "21st Century digital boy," and autocratic families that I've interacted with aren't quaint at all.

Socialism of the sort that first-century Christians practiced seems to be radically non-hierarchical, and able to scale at least to the size of a medium-sized church. The more I read, though, the more distributism seems to be a way past this dichotomy, which allows a scalable organizational structure to be built with due respect to both individual freedom and some larger order.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I've visited a Christian community which has been in existence since the 1970's in Alaska (there are several of them up there that are connected to one another).  They started with everyone living in one building (had to get one building finished quickly to survive the first winter) and all eating all meals communally, doing assigned work, and so on.  As of the last time I was there (around twenty years ago now) individual families each had their own small cabins, and everyone ate at least one meal together, usually the last meal of the day.  Each person had a job, something they liked and/or were good at.  I'm not quite sure who was 'in charge' as we didn't spend a lot of time there on our two or three visits, but think they had something along the lines of a group of elders more or less running things.  They'd had quite a bit of turnover, had around eighty people living there when we visited but had been up to around two hundred at times.  Tribe or large family size.  Some of the people living there had been there from the beginning (was around twenty-five years when we visited).  Some rotated around from the other connected communities (to keep things from getting too inbred, and to keep interpersonal problems from getting out of hand. 

I like the idea of being part of a close-knit community where people help one another and have some kind of common ideas about what the community is for and what it will accomplish.  But I think it needs to be done pretty loosely, with a basis of private ownership and private space.

Kathleen
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
I think it needs to be done pretty loosely, with a basis of private ownership and private space.




I also need private space, because I was raised up that way.  It's hard for me to be around other people, and it's actually hard for me to imagine a society without privacy, though privacy as we understand it today is a very modern development.  People used to be quite comfortable pooping right next to strangers in a public toilet (not stalls, just a shelf where you sat to poop).  We are raised up to privacy and the idea of ownership so we think of them as "normal" and "natural" though many societies have had neither the concept of privacy nor private ownership of property. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Ludi wrote:
I also need private space, because I was raised up that way.  It's hard for me to be around other people, and it's actually hard for me to imagine a society without privacy, though privacy as we understand it today is a very modern development.  People used to be quite comfortable pooping right next to strangers in a public toilet (not stalls, just a shelf where you sat to poop).  We are raised up to privacy and the idea of ownership so we think of them as "normal" and "natural" though many societies have had neither the concept of privacy nor private ownership of property.   



Yes, it really does have everything to do with how and where you were raised.  I was raised on a 160-acre homestead in the middle of Alaska, with other 160-acre homesteads all around us and the wilderness all around them, and I have a much higher need for space and privacy than a lot of other people I know.  Plus my family wasn't 'huggy.'  To this day if someone is talking to me and moves closer, I find myself moving away a little bit -- I know I'm doing it but can't stop.  My 'personal space' is just a little bit bigger than most people's. 

Recently I took an on-line evaluation to see where you are on the autism spectrum, with a score of fifteen being pretty normal for a female (and about nineteen for a male), and a score of 34 being 'on the spectrum.'  I scored 31.  So there's that to consider, also....

Kathleen
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes if we have trouble understanding and communicating with other people (I have a LOT of trouble with this) we tend to want more privacy.  I haven't seen that autism test but I bet I would score high too.    Some of us just aren't "people people."
 
                              
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It is worth pointing out that there is a reason why the consequences of "shared" or "unowned" property are named. (Tragedy of the Commons ) It is because without ownership you have no stake in the land, no security in it, and little if any reason to care for or improve it.

Look at the examples of all government housing. It is destroyed in a tiny fraction of the time that affordable housing which is owned gets used up.

Of course there are other elements, such as the recognition of the moral value of a person, which implies ownership of one's own labor and the property one creates or trades one's labor for.

Ultimately I myself could live in a communal arrangement, as long as property rights and personal rights are actually respected. Those which deny the inherent value of the individual, say by taking from those who create value and giving to those who don't (through coercion or other involuntary mean of course), are models for failure and though they are often cached in the language of "compassion" and "fairness" are truly the outward expression of simple hatred of other individuals.
 
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Storm wrote:
Those which deny the inherent value of the individual, say by taking from those who create value and giving to those who don't (through coercion or other involuntary mean of course), are models for failure and though they are often cached in the language of "compassion" and "fairness" are truly the outward expression of simple hatred of other individuals.



guessing at what motivates the world views of other folks is just that: guessing.  that's a difficult game to be really good at, and I suggest we all be careful about it.  any speculation may be right on for one or more folks, but I can almost guarantee that it doesn't accurately describe a great many others.

(edited to conform to forum guidelines)
 
                          
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The fable of the Tragedy of the Commons is often overstated or misunderstood, if not outright abused.

Robert V. Andelson:

When I commenced the research for this paper, I set out, with the aid of two British collegues, David Redfearn and Julia Bastian, to disprove Hardin's thesis. Together, we compiled an impressive list of counter-examples, showing that the historic commons, far from being an unregulated free-for-all, were mostly operated according to agreed-upon rules that ensured a fair distribution of opportunity, spread work evenly through the seasons, and generally tended to conserve the soil and other natural resources. These rules worked effectively in England for about a thousand years. It was only after the enclosure of the open fields was well advanced that the common pastures, having been thus divorced in large measure from their traditional employment, became subject to overgrazing and other environmental abuses as the old regulatory machinery fell into abeyance. Vestigial remnants of the historic commons, such as the Swiss alpine village of Torbel, survive and thrive even today. As for the supposed ecologically beneficent effects of "private" as opposed to "common" ownership of land; a recent report in the Financial Times  of London speaks of pollution resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, deterioration of habitats, erosion, loss of topsoil, acidification of rivers, desertification, unsuitable afforestation, etc., etc.[15] But this is not a brief for "government" ownership (nationalization); Lake Baikal in the U.S.S.R. is every bit as polluted as is Lake Erie.



Elinor Ostrom's research on successful common pool resources:

Ostrom identifies eight "design principles" of stable local common pool resource management:

   1. Clearly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external unentitled parties);
   2. Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources are adapted to local conditions;
   3. Collective-choice arrangements allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
   4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
   5. There is a scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
   6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution are cheap and of easy access;
   7. The self-determination of the community is recognized by higher-level authorities;
   8. In the case of larger common-pool resources: organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.



For more on her work, and others discovering similar things about cooperation.

(edited for formatting)
 
                              
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The use of strawmen and implicit ad hominem certainly cannot and does not make for a sound case for denial of the value of others.

Perhaps looking at the actual arguments given and employing sound reasoning would make for a more productive and reasoned discussion. At the very least it would not leave oneself open to the very criticism of failure to employ respect for persons, which already defeats the notion of "common ownership."

As for Anderson's non-examples, I do agree that he is abusing the term "commons" and that the reference to it here at best a clear case of equivocation. The historic use he refers to is one of short term ownership, where anyone can choose to improve a section of the property during which time it is theirs alone, but if abandoned could then be used by another. This is a far cry from "common ownership." This is more closely analogous to beach examples where you have exclusive use of your patch of the beach as long as you occupy it.

Then too it is overlooking the depletion of forest in GB, which was a direct result of "common ownership." We should note that such depletion resulted in stripping much of the eastern US of timber as well during the colonial times.

 
tel jetson
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Storm wrote:
The use of strawmen and implicit ad hominem certainly cannot and does not make for a sound case for denial of the value of others.



to meet paul's standards, I'm going to let that slide.

Storm wrote:
Perhaps looking at the actual arguments given and employing sound reasoning would make for a more productive and reasoned discussion. At the very least it would not leave oneself open to the very criticism of failure to employ respect for persons, which already defeats the notion of "common ownership."



alright.  one of the ways I try to employ respect for persons is by not assuming I know all about the insides of their minds.  I do want to address some of the arguments Storm made, as well.  Kerrick did a pretty good job of that already, but I'll add my own take on it.

Storm wrote:
It is worth pointing out that there is a reason why the consequences of "shared" or "unowned" property are named. (Tragedy of the Commons ) It is because without ownership you have no stake in the land, no security in it, and little if any reason to care for or improve it.



from my own point of view, I have plenty of stake in plenty of land that I don't own.  from a purely selfish angle, land I don't own supports plants that produce oxygen I need to breathe.  relatively un-eroded land purifies the water I need to drink.  other land supports creatures that enrich the land I live on.  other land is a source of all sorts of biodiversity that allows my life to go on for a while.  for these reasons and more I care for it and try to improve it.

from a slightly less selfish angle, I prefer to see other folks living healthy lives on healthy land, too.  I prefer to see land held in common respected by everyone, and so I respect it myself.

I believe that Storm is absolutely right about some people: some folks, if given the chance, will extract all they can from a common resource without regard to consequences for others.  but the way the statement was phrased, it that everyone would behave that way, and I know for a fact that that is not true.  I really doubt I'm the only person who would not behave that way, but I'm enough to make such a broad generalization false.

Storm wrote:
As for Anderson's non-examples, I do agree that he is abusing the term "commons" and that the reference to it here at best a clear case of equivocation. The historic use he refers to is one of short term ownership, where anyone can choose to improve a section of the property during which time it is theirs alone, but if abandoned could then be used by another. This is a far cry from "common ownership." This is more closely analogous to beach examples where you have exclusive use of your patch of the beach as long as you occupy it.



I don't believe they are "non-examples".  they seem like pretty solid real examples of commons to me.  rather, I would say that the fellow who first wrote about the tragedy of the commons, Garrett Hardin, was dealing in the abstract and hypothetical rather than in concrete examples.

maybe because he's writing about abstract ideas, Hardin's essay does have applications, just not to actual commons.  I believe that traditional commons worked very well because they were used and cared for by a relatively small number of people who knew each other and would not be wont to take obvious advantage of each other, so the tragedy of the commons never materialized.

other situations that have had the term "commons" applied to them, such as national forests and fisheries, do suffer from what Hardin describes.  I believe that's because of the larger scale of potential users.  it is impossible to be in close relationship with all the folks who are affected by the harvesting of timber from national forests or ocean resources, for example, so it seems much less likely that any person using those resources would take into consideration the consequences of their actions for everyone else.  that doesn't guarantee that folks will abuse common resources, but I think it does make it more likely.

the prisoners' dilemma and the idea of externalities seem to be related to this as well.

Storm wrote:
Then too it is overlooking the depletion of forest in GB, which was a direct result of "common ownership." We should note that such depletion resulted in stripping much of the eastern US of timber as well during the colonial times.



could you go into that a little deeper, Storm?  how was that a direct result of common ownership and not just a consequence of short-sighted consumption?

(edited to stay on topic)
 
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I think that this topic is of massive importance.  I honestly believe that in time, this thread could turn out to be one of the most important threads of all time for these forums. 

Note that this thread has already been read neraly 2000 times.  If things go well, I would like to think that this thread will be read more than 100,000 times. 

I would like to ask people to re-examine this thread for their own contributions.  For this difficult topic to move forward, please take the time to carefully polish your posts to reflect your position.  I think it is admirable to stand firmly on your own ground and to not suggest that any person on permies has a position that is anything less than perfect.  In other words, let your position stand on it's own, without taking a club to the position of another. 

A good way to see if you might be bashing somebody else's position is to look for the key word "you"!

Further, if anybody feel that somebody is using fallacy, or dancing in a space that would make me uncomfortable, please click on the "report to moderator" link.  I assure that you my standards are very strict in this space.  A lot of people have left permies bcause they were angry at me for deleting their stuff - and I think permies is now far better for it.  Discussions on awkward topics are now more civilized.  And I think the root of this is respect for the other folks on permies - which leads to a hundred times less fallacy than other sites.

I'll give you all a day to clean up your own stuff.

 
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The goal is to have the land used to maximum advantage for the community in a way that ensures continual sustainable production.How do you encourage someone to manage toward this end?Reward them with the right to more management decisions(power/control)over more land.Just as the best hunter leads the hunting expedition,the best permaculturist should lead the land managment.The natives here did that through the potlatch system.Accumulated surpluss was gifted out(social saftey net)in exchange for power in managment and contiued use of the space.How do you avoid short term exploitation of the resourse base?A multigenerational sytem.The natives here were unable to raise their own status through extra potlatches;only the status of their children.After all,your family status(class)would later go down if production was unable to be maintained.
 
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Ownership of land by (native)families here varied depending on the intensity of the management.Good soils were often divided into family gardens deliniated by stones.These were regularly cultivated for root crops.Specific drainages were "owned" by families.A few large commons also existed on land less unique,easily managed(fire)with mediocre soils.What I like about this model is that in encourages people to be thier most productive by rewarding them with power and fame while at the same time ensuring that those less driven or unable are able to survive.I also am interested in how to integrate a multigenerational approach to ownership.
 
                          
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I certainly have no intention of attacking any person, Storm. If that was your impression, I'm sure it was due to clumsiness on my part, for which I apologize. I'd like to see references from you for the criticisms you raise about the examples I found, if you're willing—I'm feeling slow and foggy of brain, and I think references would help me understand what you're saying.

Maybe I would do better to stick to examples I am familiar with from my own life. I don't consider any of these pure commons, but they're what I know well right now. I'm open to hearing further reflections about these examples and others.

Example 1: Hayes Valley Farm, San Francisco

Hayes Valley Farm is on a piece of property owned by the city of San Francisco. It was a freeway on-ramp until an earthquake damaged the structure and the freeway was redesigned. Then it became a vacant lot in the middle of what came to be a rather wealthy neighborhood. The city held onto the property and did nothing with it for years, holding out for private development while it was devoured by English Ivy and hosted scores of homeless people looking for someplace to shoot up, who left needles and crack pipes all over. Needless to say, the neighbors were not pleased. (This reminds me of what I read called "the Tragedy of Non-Commons"--property is not being managed in common by the people who live locally, so it is underutilized.) The city finally signed a contract with a developer to build some high-end condos, but then the housing crash happened, and the developer put the project on hold until the economy recovers.
The mayor of SF then signed an interim developer agreement with members of the San Francisco permaculture guild to establish a temporary urban food forest in the neighborhood. (I know "temporary" and "permaculture" sound a little bit at odds here; the way I see it, the city is the permaculture site, and Hayes Valley Farm is one component in a certain phase of its succession.) Within a year, Hayes Valley Farm—a loose collaborative of community members, volunteers, and neighboring businesses, under the visionary leadership of SF Permaculture Guild members, incorporating community feedback and student design projects as well as the inspiration of individual volunteers—has sheet-mulched very nearly the entire site and established a greenhouse, a well-run composting system, garden beds, hundreds of fruit trees planted in containers with companion plants, a solar charging station for people to juice up their portable electronics, and teaching facilities that host weekly classes ranging from introductory to advanced topics and including kids education. New soil has been built on top of old soil contaminated with freeway runoff, and there are no more needles. In two to five years, the developer is expected to begin advancing the original condo plan—which, in the minds of the people invested in Hayes Valley Farm is something of a tragedy of the private corporation. In the meantime, the Hayes Valley community has a community resource that is adding value for everyone (with the notable exception of the addicted homeless men and women who now have nowhere to go to shoot up). This particular patch of land is being managed much better by this community group than it was by the city, or than it would be if the city had just sold it to the developer outright, in my opinion.

Example 2: Emerald Earth Sanctuary, Mendocino Co.

Emerald Earth is an intentional community in Northern California. The site, 189 acres of mixed oak savanna and redwood forest, was purchased by an individual who donated the land to the community, which formed a 501c3 to manage it. It is held as common property and community members pay a land use fee to cover taxes and other expenses. Most decisions are made by consensus. Prior to its purchase and subsequent donation, the land had been owned by a series of private individuals. It was logged, overgrazed by sheep, and then used as recreational hunting property while the surrounding forest was allowed to turn to scrub. Over time, the members of the community have learned good land management practices, and are now regenerating patches of valuable native oak savanna with the use of rotational grazing of goats and sheep. Houses are not owned by individuals—if a household outgrows their home, and a larger house is inhabited by a single person, the community might come to consensus to have a house swap. The houses are natural buildings, and are generally well-maintained by the residents and the community. Many maintenance tasks are shared, including those that affect individual homes. It's not paradise; there are many issues with which the community struggles to one degree or another. But it is a healthy, vibrant community, with an ecosystem that is growing healthier and more resilient every year. I would say their biggest problem with the tragedy of the commons is misplaced tools, and I would consider it a stretch to call that a tragedy in comparison to the many benefits the residents share.

I suppose it needs to be stated that I'm not against private property. I believe, on the basis of my own experience, that there are times when resources held in common can be well-managed. I think that holding up private property as an ideal sometimes leads to tragedy of a different kind—the belief that it should be every American's dream to own a large single-family house, and the tendency of private enterprise to want to profit from that desire, has led to the mortgage crisis that is undermining our economy. I seek a balance between lands privately owned and managed and lands held communally and well-managed by the community. I think we're too far to the side of private ownership and private management—one of the reasons I think that is because I see even our state parks being logged unsustainably for the profit of private timber companies.

To be transparent, I also feel hopeful when I think about groups of people getting together to farm land to raise food for everyone. That's a dream I have for myself, and since I don't foresee having a lot of money to purchase land on my own, I hope to be able to do so in community. When I hear people say that's impossible, I often find myself feeling personally invested in showing that it's not.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Are not the Spanish Mondragon cooperatives successful long-term common ownership of land and production?  Or am I misunderstanding the discussion?   
 
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I guess when I started the thread it had come from being told that capitalism and land ownership was a bad thing.
I personally think that ownership whether communal or by an individual makes one a stakeholder who would be more responsible in the care of or passing on of property.
Continuity of vision is required. There will always be one more tree, plant, animal  that I will want to try. Ownership or having the ability to transfer ownership to a like minded party would allow that continuity.
 
Personal ownership allows one to create without the consensus required of a group. Not that groups can't polish or perfect an individuals idea but the process of acquiring group consensus can be exhausting and result in not trying in some cases if an individual is more of an introvert than an extrovert.

 
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I think the degree of control is individual.Pioneers and artistic types will feel hampered by a concensus proccess and the required foresight and articulation.Often I only have a rough sketch of where Im going and having to articulate every change of course and why is very draining and enough of an obstical as to make me give up alltogether.Others are more interested in a communal feel than experiamentation and charting the unknown.A community near me can get alot done with that many people but what gets done is often dumbed down by the need for consensus.I am free to experament as I chose on my land.Back to the subject:Private property provides my strong driven personality with clear deleniations of where my influence ends.The ambuguity in an intentional community would allow me to infringe on others accidentaly through sheer force of personality.I am also extreemly inspired to have an open pallet to work with and no meetings.For the record,I have as many people living here(5-7)as some communities and we all get along.No meetings;benevolent dictatorship.For my tenents,I take resposability for all interactions(verbal or paper) with the state as the owner so there is a relief on their part to not have to think about such things.
 
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Robert Ray wrote:
I guess when I started the thread it had come from being told that capitalism and land ownership was a bad thing.
I personally think that ownership whether communal or by an individual makes one a stakeholder who would be more responsible in the care of or passing on of property.



I guess maybe the "ownership-sphere" is like the "monkey-sphere" - it can only be so big.  In the US, citizens are legally owners of state and national property, but most people probably don't feel like they own national forests and so don't treat them as they would if they "really" owned the land.

About the monkeysphere:  http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html
 
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Another aspect of private ownership that I enjoy is with buildings.Knowing I will be here for my life and hopefully pass it on to like minded folks and knowing that failing infrastructure often is what breaks homesteads,I choose to build things to last a VERY long time.People without a sense of ownership or long term commitment will feel less secure and thus invest less time and energy into the buildings.I am reminded of this every year as travelers or short term renters look for shortcuts in building that undermine the long term vision for the space.Annuals and shortlived strucures are the language of the displaced and those insecure about their future.I agree with the sphere of influence post also in that people need a close connection to a space to feel ownership just as people need a close connection with a leader or representative to feel they are participating.Scale is a big defining factor in a sense of belonging but thats a whole different rant.
 
                              
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To address some of the questions raised.

It is not "common ownership" if I have exclusive rights to a portion of the land for a given time. That would be private ownership. So individual garden plots, in what is claimed to be "common" area is at best a temporary lease (private ownership) of that plot. Unless you are willing to allow that others can graze their goats in your "commonly owned" garden plot, the term "common ownership" is just being abused.

I don't appeal to "authority" as requested, because that too is a fallacy. However I did reference the examples of government housing, which have been and continue to be dismal failures because there is no ownership, thus no reason for improvement or even basic maintenance.

"This particular patch of land is being managed much better by this community group than it was by the city, or than it would be if the city had just sold it to the developer outright, in my opinion. "

This is of course one of the problems. This claim is simply that you like it because you like it, which I would not dream of denying, but rather point out that this is uninformative and does not itself make a case against respect for persons.

"Houses are not owned by individuals—if a household outgrows their home, and a larger house is inhabited by a single person, the community might come to consensus to have a house swap."

Thus removing all motivation to improve or maintain the residence. And of course this requires denying the value of the individual and respecting that there may be emotional or other ties to the property/home.

"I would consider it a stretch to call that a tragedy in comparison to the many benefits the residents share."

But this is at best opinion, not fact. After all I value the ability to improve my life without the fear of having it taken because someone else chose to breed (for instance). In such a setting as you describe, were I to create three rooms of libraries to house my books, which bring me great joy, and maintained those rooms with great care, the "community" could simply steal that home from me, giving me a one room shack with no room for my books, perhaps even decreeing that my books be used as fire material, giving over my lovingly crafted home to others who chose to have lots of children. Sure there is the benefit you see for the family that did not create the home, but rather had lots of children, but I hope you can see that the short term benefit to that family is a long term harm to not merely the individual, but to all others as well.

I will assume that these will suffice, in order to keep the post relatively short, and to make another point:
We need not deny the value of the individual in order to work together. We can have respect for persons, including recognizing that we each have property rights, and still work together to improve our lives. Amongst the things I have done in my life, I have been a designer and remodeller. I know that I have increased the quality of life of others through recognizing that this is their property, and trading my skills, labor, knowledge, and time with them voluntarily for some of their property (usually but not always in the form of money). Both benefit, no one is harmed, there is no coercion, and everyone was very happy in the end. I am proud to say that many of my clients are also my friends today.

When I hear how we must or should abandon respect for others, including property rights, I cringe knowing the historical failures of this mentality, but also because of the success of respect for persons.


 
                              
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  Tel asked: "how was that a direct result of common ownership and not just a consequence of short-sighted consumption?"

That is  like asking why X is not blue but rather is a square.

Short sightedness is one of the consequences of denying ownership rights and inherent moral worth of the individual. When I know that I can take whatever without any consequences, such as is the case in the "common ownership" I might as well take whatever I like to whatever point I like. However if I own a grove of trees (going back to my original example of deforestation) and I perceive a need for wood for housing, cooking, fencing, and other activities I may have in my efforts to improve my life, I have to make a choice between using that wood now or later. I will also plan for the future, perhaps increasing my wood lot, or at least replanting trees to replace those I have taken.

Contrarily if there is simply this wood lot, and I know that there are some other number of people who also want to use it for their own desires, my best move is to harvest all that I can before someone else does. Even in the best case scenario, I will just harvest as I need, without any thought to replanting, because what I plant may be destroyed by others during their harvest, through carelessness, or even just for their own uses when they see fit.

That said, does there exist some small example of particular individuals who do on occasion replant for personal reasons, without regard for the possible loss of their labor. Yep. Sure are. I've planted a number of trees for reasons of my own knowing that my reward was in the planting, not in the harvest. But to assume that we will all adopt this behavior, and do so at all times, is unrealistic and requires that human nature itself change dramatically.

Money is just a place holder for labor. When you trade your labor for mine in the form of money, we are recognizing the value of the other. When you seize my labor, whether that be the thug in the alley or the "consensus" of some "authority" you necessarily are treating me as a mere tool, or resource to be used, not as a morally worthwhile person in my own right.

(I am using "I" and "you" in a general sense not in particulars)

BTW read my statements you attack again. It cannot be reasonably be read as the universal you claim that it is. I am quite clear that I am referring to specific approaches and mindsets.

 
Robert Ray
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I think within some communal ownerships there would be some exclusivity or identified roles.
In  communal ownership an arborist/forrester would be responsible for trees for example. With common/communal ownership, large holdings, there would have to a division of labor or areas for efficiencies sake, the same for animal husbandry etc.
Short sightedness or a moral decision for land use occurs sometimes even when one owns the land.
Since the thread assumes the premise a permaculture mindset is guiding us let's eliminate irresponsible behavior.
Living in Oregon I see first hand where decisions on National Forests would be better served with local decisions made by local forresters rather than distant decrees.
It seems that some type of connectivity with the land is required.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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As far as decisions relating to national forests and so on, I have wished that it was possible to require all such decisions to be made locally.  Make it illegal for people in a distant city to make laws or regulations that adversely affect the rural people far away.  Living in Oregon, I can really see the dichotomy between the urban liberal enclaves, and the much more conservative rural areas.  My feeling is that it would be fine for the urban people to impose laws and regulations on themselves, but it's silly beyond belief for them to be allowed to have that kind of control over other parts of the state just because they outnumber us!

Mt. Goat said, "Another aspect of private ownership that I enjoy is with buildings.  Knowing I will be here for my life and hopefully pass it on to like minded folks and knowing that failing infrastructure often is what breaks homesteads, I choose to build things to last a VERY long time.  People without a sense of ownership or long term commitment will feel less secure and thus invest less time and energy into the buildings.  I am reminded of this every year as travelers or short term renters look for shortcuts in building that undermine the long term vision for the space.  Annuals and short-lived structures are the language of the displaced and those insecure about their future.  I agree with the sphere of influence post also in that people need a close connection to a space to feel ownership just as people need a close connection with a leader or representative to feel they are participating.  Scale is a big defining factor in a sense of belonging but that's a whole different rant. "

There's a lot of truth in what you said there.  My grandmother owns this property where I live (my daughter and I live with Grandma), and even though we've been here for seven years, I haven't built anything permanent.  My livestock started out in a couple of Costco portable carports; now they are housed in a slightly larger and more durable structure of the same type.  For what I've spent on these things, I could have built a small barn, but I just can't commit to anything that I won't be able to take with me someday when we finally move.  I never expected to be here this long -- Grandma was ninety when we came to live with her!  Sometimes I get impatient, feeling like I'm just sitting here spinning my wheels when I should be working on a place of my own.  But I gave my word that I'd stay for as long as Grandma needed me....

At this point in my life, I'm so tired of living in places that are owned by someone else, I've vowed that even if our next home is a tent, it will be MY tent!!  So there is no way I'd be up for communal living.  Splitting a piece of land with someone, yes, as long as we each ended up with our own place, but not a commune.

Kathleen
 
                              
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Well said Kathleen.

One of the differences between ownership and the communal view is that we can rely upon human nature for protection of the property under ownership, but must imagine a dramatic change in human nature, to that of self-denial, for communal dystopias to work. While we know that some folks will not care for their property the way that we would wish, we also know that people are infinitely more likely to care for property if they own it than if they are allowed use of it without consequence, effort, of value. And why would we expect someone to value something that we value ourselves so little as to discard it to them?

As I understand it permaculture works with nature, but denying the value of others via "common property" (which btw is logically contradictory) is working against nature. Seems to me that a more natural fit to permaculture is respect for persons, which of course includes respecting property rights.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Except many human societies existed without the concept of private property.  Many hunter-gatherer societies didn't/don't have private ownership or even the concept of privacy.  So private ownership isn't human nature, probably.  It might be the way we were raised, to value our own stuff over someone else's stuff, instead of seeing all the stuff as "our stuff" ("us" being "our group" not "just anybody" of course).  So not so much human nature as the nature of our culture.



 
                              
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Find those hypothetical examples and provide them so we can see if in fact there was not self ownership, no privacy, no individual but rather only the group.

I will guess that the first example would be that of the first nations people of the US, but in fact in these cases they often relied upon private property in order to survive for the very reasons provided. You had your own horse (thinking of the plains "indians") which you cared for, though it helped the community as a whole. You had your own weapons and tools. Once a temporary camp was set up, you had your own space, your own bedding, etc. All of this is part of respect for persons, and the private property inherent to it.

Moreover, the human nature referred to is that of self preservation. I dare say that finding a flourishing culture, society, civilization, or even small group in which all individuals have no sense of self preservation will be impossible.
 
Robert Ray
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We can't equate primitive nomadic hunter gatherer societies with present day reality, at least in current western culture.
In a nomadic society personal property as Storm points out: horses, weapons, harvest tools would be owned by the individual.
 
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I was thinking more in terms of "real property" that is ownership of land, but yes you're right, even less complex societies than the Plains people probably had their personal tools and ornaments.

Correction noted! 

But this discussion seemed to be more about private ownership of land (see title of thread).
 
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Robert Ray wrote:
We can't equate primitive nomadic hunter gatherer societies with present day reality, at least in current western culture.



Likewise we can't equate current western culture with "human nature."  There are aspects of our culture which we may think of as "human nature" which are not present in other cultures.


 
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but even the tribes of the America's had their own territories.  If those were encroached on, a war often ensued.  Individuals may not have owned land (in some of the tribes, at least), but their tribe was their family, and even in our culture families are often able to share houses, land, and so on.  I don't think that you can equate that situation with our current society -- in such a large society, there has to be documented personal ownership of things, or someone is going to come along and take it away, and the owner has no recourse.  We can talk till kingdom come about how it ought not to be that way, how people ought to be better than that -- and I won't disagree, but that is the way things ARE.  We have to deal in reality, not pie-in-the-sky.  In a smaller group, a tribe, you can own stuff or land by word-of-mouth because everyone knows you and your stuff and your land.  That doesn't work when you are talking about millions of people instead of maybe a few hundred.

Lest you think that I'm wrong, just consider the recent court decisions on eminent domain, which have basically taken away private property rights in some states.  Some predatory rich corporation comes along, convinces the community leaders that the community will get more money if they give so-and-so's land to them (the corp.) to develop, and the poor owner (and it usually is a poor person, often elderly) gets thrown off, no matter if they've lived there for fifty years.  I don't think that any of us agree with the eminent domain issues that have happened recently, yet some of you are willing to see essentially the same thing happen on a smaller scale 'for the good of the community' in your communal living arrangements.  It doesn't take into account that people do get emotionally invested in their homes and land. 

One thing that isn't taken into account in arguments like this is balance.  There's a saying that what's good for the individual is good for the community, and we all know that that sentiment can be taken way too far, as an individual enriches or benefits himself at the expense of and to the detriment of the community.  On the other hand, what's good for the community may usually be good for the individual, but again, it can be taken way too far, as in those eminent domain cases I mentioned above. Balance is needed in ALL things, a concern for both the individual AND for the community. 

If one individual's rights to property (or anything else) are taken away, then everyone else is left waiting for the axe to fall on them next -- a state of suspense in which nobody can do much of anything productive.  It's the situation we've already talked about above where the transient person avoids doing anything permanent to improve the place where he or she is living, because they don't know where they are going next, or when.  There's no point in improving a place if you probably won't be there to enjoy the benefits of your work.

Kathleen
 
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examples of successful long-term common management of land, such as communal grazing aren't too difficult to find.  examples of disastrous communal grazing aren't hard to find, either.

that almost seems beside the point, though.  that a thing hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen.  humans are adaptable and have lived in a huge variety of arrangements and cultures, and we'll continue to try out new and old arrangements.  what seems more important to me than figuring out which is the one very best way for everyone to live is that folks respect dirt and not go on violent adventures with the goal of making other folks live differently.

if some folks need to have private property to feel respected, great, so long as that private property isn't used to the detriment of other folks.  if some other folks want to have all their stuff and land in common, that's great, too, and most likely doesn't require anyone to hate each other.  there's obviously a lot of opportunity for conflict between those two different approaches and any others I haven't mentioned, but I don't think that conflict is guaranteed to occur.  we're a clever species.

I also want to point out that the community Kerrick mentioned operates by consensus.  the community isn't going to throw the hypothetical single person out of their home without that person's cooperation.  that's my understanding, anyhow.

Kathleen is right about the value of dealing with current reality.  but we didn't get to where we are overnight.  it's been a long process of gradual change.  that gradual change continues.  aiming it toward conditions that we would prefer doesn't seem unreasonable, so what might seem like "pie in the sky" still has value.

guerrilla gardeners seem like an example of folks who steward land that they have no formal control of.  and that is a growing crowd right here in Western civilization.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but even the tribes of the America's had their own territories.



That's absolutely correct.  Territorial boundaries were of extreme importance to each band or tribe in order to survive.  They were often maintained through low-grade constant fighting, but some groups such as some of the Plains tribes, worked out a plan of non-lethal fighting or sports contests, in which the warriors would hit each other with weapons in a non-lethal manner and then the boundary was decided based on who hit who more and everyone smoked a peace pipe.  This is not to say the fighting was gentle!  Guys were seriously but non-lethally injured, like a really brutal game of rugby!  But the land was "owned" by the entire tribe, not by individuals within the tribe.

Personally I am horrified by the idea of the state taking private property and am against almost all eminent domain situations.  Public ownership of new lands should be decided between the present land owners and the state with NO coercion.    Texas has recently been dealing with a lot of this mess with the (expletive deleted) "Trans-Texas Corridor" a massive boondoggle that would take land from families who have lived here for more than a century, to build a 1000 foot wide road and rail system which we do not need in this state.  Thankfully this idiotic scheme has mostly died thanks to the utter outrage of the citizenry. But now we're having to deal with power lines from West Texas wind-farms cutting through ranches on the Edwards Plateau to bring power to the cities.  Cities which, mind you, do not need to use more power!  Texas is one of the largest energy hogs in the entire world (beat only by The United Arab Emirates I believe).  Oh!  But you can tell this gets me going!    I'll stop now! 
 
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