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Introduction

Our
Birthright
in
Land
by
Peter Gibb

Man is of Earth. He is earth: - from his coming, to his returning - inseparable from it in every sense, and unimaginable without it. So it is, once again, that we see things this way; and no longer do we quite so lord it up on earth, as once we did, and as Burns regretted to a mouse in November 1785 -

"Iím truly sorry manís dominion,
Has broken natureís social union,
Aní justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
Aní fellow-mortal !"

Perhaps our recent ecological “breakages” are passing into history. We do seem to be rediscovering, all over the world, the way of life that knows the essential truth: that all life is inextricably linked, bound together even, and that tied within that binding, tied up tight, is Land - the Earth itself. We come to see that each of us, as earth apart awhile, is personally bound tight to land. It feeds us and waters us, gives us air to breath, it clothes us and shelters us, and nourishes our souls, between delivering us and receiving us - and no amount of human “progress’ will change that.

        Now if there is a single right which can be said to belong to all men, then by this binding, it is the right to his place on earth. This is man’s ‘birthright in land’. Just as we each have an equal natural tie to our Mother Earth, so we each have an equal natural right by her. Just as we are one with the animals, the trees, the soil - our “earth-born companions” - so we realise that we cannot stand alone from that to which we are bound.

        This new clear sighting of the great but suppressed truth of our human situation, can be found beginning to grow in almost every sphere of human life. But - unfortunately - only in almost every sphere, and the deficiency is critical; for it is in that most fundamental social matter - that of our society’s instituted relationship with the land. There, such deep ecological awareness is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, we see that there is little correlation, hardly even superficially, between our existing major social structures and the structures required by the Natural Laws of Earth. In our actual political arrangements today, where is our true connection to the land reflected in our modern social structures, institutions and laws? Where is the social embodiment of man’s first birthright to be found today? The answer is, sad to say, in precious few places. As we - as individual men, women and children - come together in our societies, should not the social, political and economic structures we form, grow from and reflect the Nature-given orders and structures?

        Axially defining our societies is the point of relationship between the community and the individual. In one direction, the relationship is manifested as the restrictions society places on the individual (that is, what it is permitted to take from him, such as consents to act, or social dues) : simultaneously, in the other direction, the relationship is defined by the extent to which, and means by which, the individual empowers the social community and enables it to act. We see that the way society makes provision for its common expenses is a matter of central importance to it. In the arrangement adopted, potentially lies the key to embodying, at a deep level within our human social systems, that sought-for Natural Order.

        However, here we encounter a paradox: for in actual fact, the reservoirs from which our public revenue is taken today are mainly private things, which we tax - (such as a man’s labour, his savings, or his goods) - and have little or nothing to do with community, or the common gift of Nature. The fruits of our labour, the return on our savings, and the profit on our trading are all things which by natural right are fully ours to keep, since they are (in an undistorted economic system) truly the result of our own hands and minds at work. Society has no moral right, in normal circumstances, to demand any portion of these private things. So, what can society claim as its own?

        Beyond the returns to labour, savings and trading of each individual man, there is a resource, a fund, which can be said to belong to all men equally: - that bestowed by his community-sharing in our common birthright of land - our common fund of Earth. The windfall gain which we presently permit a man to reap, with his exclusive possession of some part of our common heritage - can we honestly say that that is rightfully his, the result of his exertions?

        So the question is this: how can man’s commonality and individuality be simultaneously embodied, politically, in our society, to truly reflect the natural order? That is, how can that which is common to us all - the land - be allowed to all of us? - and how can we ensure the right of every individual to the full fruits of his labour on the earth? How can the birthright of each of us in Mother Earth be procured?

        Should not the answer be:

FOR WHAT EACH MAN TAKES FROM THE COMMON FUND,
HE SHALL PAY TO THE COMMUNITY A RENT.

For each plot of land or natural resource he holds, and so monopolises, each man shall pay to the community a rent. The rent shall be his payment for the right to the exclusive use of what he takes, and be due to those whose own rights are diminished by his taking - that is, the rest of mankind. Thereby shall each individual acknowledge his debt to Mother-Earth, and thereby shall the community be compensated for what, awhile, it has lent. So it is that Community Ground Rent gives us back our birthright in land.
        
        The value of the land is the natural, lawful, proper, and in fact practical way, to raise public revenue, for a country being reborn in a new millenium.


“ It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life; they must stand on equal terms with reference to the bounty of nature.... This is the universal law. This is the lesson of the centuries. ”

Henry George
Progress and Poverty


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