By Timothy Glazier – “God ordained all the waters of the world to be in common for creatures of the water, and all the earth for creatures of the earth. Only that unhappy being, man, divided what God had united. He confined his dominion that was vast by nature, to narrow limits. He introduced into the world ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, the origin of all strife and evil.”
The letters of Marcilio Ficino, Volume 1, Letter No 73 to Angelo Poliziano
How much freedom should we trade for our security?
The answer is simple. At the root of the insecurity of the times in which we live is a simple truth. This is that instinctively every human knows that it is heir to the sharing of the bounty of the earth, but that more often than not this heritage is denied. When that heritage is denied, then insecurity will inevitably follow – it has been thus throughout recorded history. It is because everyone instinctively acknowledges this, that what is written below cannot be denied.
We inhabit a planet upon which nature burgeons forth unlimited riches which arc available to sustain the needs of the myriad forms of life – each one of which also contributes to this richness. These life forms include humanity. In this world of abundance humanity only has to hold out its hands and nature fills them to the brim. This abundance is available to, and is the rightful property of all. All this is OURS – our common wealth and heritage.
Further, so blessed is humanity with creative genius that it has devised ways of multiplying this bounty many million fold and to share in this bounty each individual and each group should be able to take what they need and give in return of what they can contribute and every society accordingly creates its laws to apportion this out and to allow rights of collective and individual possession. However, when such laws enable groups and individuals to claim as personal property, as MINE, what in fact is OURS – without making recompense – then problems will follow. A just, free, secure and fulfilled society would be achieved if there was general recognition and acknowledgement of that which is OURS, and which, at the same time, ensured that what was claimed as MINE did not conflict with that rightful heritage. Taking as MINE, what is rightfully OURS without recompense. is stealing. It is as simple as that.
What is MINE?
As Marcilio Ficino points out in the quotation above, the concepts of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ are ‘the origin of all strife and evil’ so establishing what can justly be called MINE is an important element of civilised society and the principles underlying what constitutes private property are commonly acknowledged to be those that John Stuart Mill set out in his Principles of Political Economy. The essential element of these principles, he wrote, ‘consists in the recognition, in each person, of the right to the exclusive disposal of what he or she may have produced by their own exertions, or received by gift or fair agreement, without force or fraud, from those who produced it.’ Everything else, by this principle, must be OURS.
Today, however, it is very evident from the ‘strife and evil’ – poverty, suffering and increasing lack of security – that exist throughout the world that mankind has drifted far from the recognition of the principles underlying what can be called MINE, and it can be seen that this is largely because it has generally become sanctioned by our culture that what is understood to be OURS, can, without recompense, be ‘privatised’ and be called MINE by individuals or groups.
Because of this, insurmountable divisions have grown up within humanity which, in turn, has become separated and distanced from its heritage, the planet earth in all its abundance. The result is suffering. cruelty, injustice, poverty, terrorism, war and devastation of the earth. Through this failure to accord to what is the natural state of things, freedom and security for all has been lost.
What is the solution?
The solution is simple. To achieve a secure world the right to claim as MINE, that which is OURS, without recompense, must be traded for the acknowledgement that a duty is owed by those who wish to make such a claim. This means that those who wish to enjoy sole rights to that which belongs to the whole community, whatever form that might take – land or natural resources – are required to make recompense for that privilege and it would become the solemn responsibility of national and international governments and authorities to ensure that this takes place.
But before that happens there must be some common agreement on what does belong to all. But if an objective review could be made of the nature of things, it would show that all lands and seas and the natural resources contained within and above them, are OURS. The sunlight that is the primary energy of the biosphere, is OURS. The air and all the water, upon which life depends, are OURS. The atmosphere and the space surrounding the earth are OURS, the airwaves and electromagnetic spectrums are OURS. All forms of global or universal natural resource, whether material or energetic, are all OURS. Crucially also, the values that accrue to specific sites and places within this common wealth, because of the presence and enterprise and investment of a society, must also be acknowledged as belonging collectively to that society.
The Practical Implications today.
In our present complex, diverse and often overcrowded global societies the principles contained within this relationship of OURS and MINE are just as simple, and just as relevant and, once recognised, could be restored.
All communities require a source of revenue to service their infrastructure, care for the dependent and provide communal services. The natural source of this public revenue arises out of the duty owed to the community by those who have claimed as mine, what in truth belongs to that community, what we have identified as OURS. Thus the use of any of those communal facilities by groups or individuals, that we have described above as being ours, would carry a duty from those who chose to consider them as mine. This duty has traditionally been discharged by the performance of a service or by the payment of a charge, called by the classical economists the economic rent of land and natural resources, and that charge is the natural source of public revenue.
Because this natural source of public revenue is currently rarely collected, those who are responsible for gathering the public revenue have no other recourse than to extract this, in one way or another, from that which we established above is truly MINE the fruits of the work of the hands of an individual or a group established above as being truly and naturally private property, that which by nature is MINE. Thus, not only do groups and individuals steal from the collective possession by claiming as MINE, what is naturally OURS, but that which is naturally MINE is stolen by those responsible for the gathering of public revenue, thus exacerbates the sense of injustice of all who arc so affected, stifling creativity and enterprise, and greatly increasing the sense of communal insecurity.
Trading the freedom to steal.
The freedom that has been given to stealing in this manner by today’s culture is the root cause of insecurity individually, communally, nationally and internationally: it is also the root cause of global povel1y, economic injustice and the devastation of the planet’s resources. This is the freedom that must be traded in order to restore a sense of security at all these levels and economic justice to all people. This will only follow when a common understanding of what is OURS and what is MINE can be restored, and the necessary consequences of that understanding implemented by governments.
In due course this understanding will be restored because the knowledge of it is known in the hearts of all- though it has just been temporarily forgotten by the majority and covered over to protect privilege by our culture. The knowledge of what is OURS and what is MINE was known by pre-literate humanity, it is known by those who live close to the earth and it is encapsulated within the teachings of all the great religions. Today it is becoming awakened in the growing numbers who arc emotionally motivated to work for the relief of poverty, the bringing of peace and justice, and the protection of the planet. In due course the memory will be revived within all, possibly only when the insecurity arising from this basic human injustice becomes more and more acute.
Once that has happened a sufficient united will would arise so that the simple and necessary changes can be made to restore a condition of justice by trading the freedom to steal leading to a true and lasting security and justice for all humanity.