UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 14, 2009

THE LAND BUBBLE

Scott Thill, AlterNet - In the past six months, big players in the global economy have grabbed 50 million acres of arable land, from Africa to Southeast Asia. . .

The bubble money has now moved on from housing and turned to the commodities markets, especially global food production. Given what that money did to the housing market, things don't look good for local communities whose land is being bought up by governments, sovereign wealth and hedge funds, and other investors on the hunt for real value in a hyper-real economy. . .

The hard numbers are alarming: According to the Guardian, in the last six months over 20 million hectares (around 50 million acres) of arable land, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, have been sold or negotiated for sale or lease. That's about half the size of all arable land in Europe, or the size of entire U.S. states North Dakota or Oklahoma. . .

The economic valuation of land and water has increased in concurrence with both price commodities and the ravages of climate change, whose droughts, wildfires and other extreme environmental events are quickly shrinking what's left of the planet's arable land and clean water.

6 Comments:

Anonymous pay justice said...

"If there were but one person in the world, it is manifest that he could have no more wealth than he was able to make and save. THIS is the natural order." - Henry George.

And THAT is the sanity, the common sense, the biggest-picture reality that the richest have driven us all far from.

Every lion cub to this day gets born with its birthright to a place to put its feet and live its life still intact, but this is not so for humans anymore - not since all land became owned. It seems too impossible to believe, but it's true; without consciousness of having done it, humans have universally agreed to strip our own most fundamental, most essential birthright off all of us, off everyone already born and everyone yet to be born. We don't see the big picture because generations have been born within the frame of the truly stupid and completely unnecessary idea to give away our birthright to land. But humanity has indeed stripped this birthright off everyone, and we've done it without thinking to properly and justly give ourselves even a dime's compensation. Humanity have acquiesced to a farce so large we can't see it. We have allowed and condoned the legal theft of our primary birthright - even though no one is able to live without a place to put their feet. Could there be anything more obvious and inescapable than the fact that humans can't choose to just float in air?

Here's what our irrational tolerance of legal theft and our collective mindless acquiescence to this fundamental and ubiquitous economic injustice has wrought:
"The richest 5% in every nation, rich and poor, North and South, East and West, now own between 70% and 95% of their own countries."

Land monopoly (plus private inheritance) is the very back bone of rule by the rich:

http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/3046/index.html

Winston Churchill: "Land Monopoly is not the only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies - it is perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly."

Here is (most of) "Archimedes" by Mark Twain:

"It is evident that he was an over-rated man. He was in the habit of making a lot of fuss about his screws and levers, but his knowledge of mechanics was in reality of a very limited character. I have never set up for a genius myself, but I know of a mechanical force more powerful than anything the vaunting engineer of Syracuse ever dreamed of. It is the force of land monopoly; it is a screw and lever all in one; it will screw the last penny out of a man's pocket, and bend everything on earth to its own despotic will.

Give me the private ownership of all the land, and will I move the earth? No; but I will do more. I will undertake to make slaves of all the human beings on the face of it. Not chattel slaves exactly, but slaves nevertheless. What an idiot I would be to make chattel slaves of them. I would have to find them salts and senna when they were sick, and whip them to work when they were lazy.

No, it is not good enough. Under the system I propose the fools would imagine they were all free. I would get a maximum of results, and have no responsibility whatever. They would cultivate the soil; they would dive into the bowels of the earth for its hidden treasures; they would build cities and construct railways and telegraphs; their ships would navigate the ocean; they would work and work, and invent and contrive; their warehouses would be full, their markets glutted, and:

The beauty of the whole concern would be
That everything they made would belong to me.

(continued below)...

August 14, 2009 10:32 AM  
Anonymous pay justice said...

"Archimedes" continued:

What a glorious time I would have of it! Rent and interest, interest and rent, and no limit to either, excepting the ability of the workers to pay. Rents would go up and up, and they would continue to pledge and mortgage, and as they went bung, bung, one after another, it would be the finest sport ever seen. Thus, from the simple leverage of land monopoly, not only the great globe itself, but everything on the face of it would eventually belong to me. I would be king and lord of all, and the rest of mankind would be my most willing slaves.

It hardly needs to be said that it would not be consistent with my dignity to associate with the common rank and file of humanity; it would not be politic to say so, but, as a matter of fact, I not only hate work but I hate those who do work, and I would not have their stinking carcasses near me at any price. High above the contemptible herd I would sit enthroned amid a circle of devoted worshippers. I would choose for myself companions after my own heart. I would deck them with ribbons and gewgaws to tickle their vanity; they would esteem it an honour to kiss my glove, and would pay homage to the very chair that I sat upon; brave men would die for me, parsons would pray for me, and bright-eyed beauty would pander to my pleasures.

For the proper management of public affairs I would have a parliament, and for the preservation of law and order there would be soldiers and policemen, all sworn to serve me faithfully; their pay would not be much, but their high sense of duty would be a sufficient guarantee that they would fulfill the terms of the contract.

Outside the charmed circle of my society would be others eagerly pressing forward in the hope of sharing my favours; outside of these would be others again who would be forever seeking to wriggle themselves into the ranks of those in front of them, and so on, outward and downward, until we reach the deep ranks of the workers forever toiling and forever struggling merely to live, and with the hell of poverty forever threatening to engulf them. The hell of poverty, that outer realm of darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth - the social Gehenna, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched - here is a whip more effective by far than the keenest lash of the chattel slave owner, urging them on by day, haunting their dreams by night, draining without stint the life blood from their veins, and pursuing them with relentless constancy to their graves.

In the buoyancy of youth many would start full of hope and with high expectations; but, as they journeyed along, disappointment would follow disappointment, hope would gradually give place to despair, the promised cup of joy would be turned to bitterness, and the holiest affection would become a poisoned arrow quivering in the heart!

(conclusion next)...

August 14, 2009 10:41 AM  
Anonymous pay justice said...

last of "Archimedes":

What a beautiful arrangement - ambition urging in front, want and the fear of want bringing up the rear! In the conflicting interests that would be involved, in the throat-cutting competition that would prevail, in the bitterness that would be engendered between man and man, husband and wife, father and son, I should, of course, have no part. There would be lying and cheating, harsh treatment by masters, dishonesty of servants, strikes and lockouts, assaults and intimidation, family feuds and interminable broils; but they would not concern Me. In the serene atmosphere of my earthly paradise I would be safe from all evil. I would feast on the daintiest of dishes, and sip wines of the choicest vintage; my gardens would have the most magnificent terraces and the finest walks. I would roam mid the umbrageous foliage of the trees, the blooming flowers, the warbling of birds, the jetting of fountains, and the splashing of pellucid waters. My palace would have its walls of alabaster and domes of crystal, there would be furniture of the most exquisite workmanship, carpets and hangings of the richest fabrics and finest textures, carvings and paintings that were miracles of art, vessels of gold and silver, gems of the purest ray glittering in their settings, the voluptuous strains of the sweetest music, the perfume of roses, the softest of couches, a horde of titled lackeys to come and go at my bidding, and a perfect galaxy of beauty to stimulate desire, and administer to my enjoyment. Thus would I pass the happy hours away, while throughout the world it would be a hallmark of respectability to extol my virtues, and anthems would be everywhere sung in praise.

Archimedes never dreamt of anything like that. Yet, with the earth for my fulcrum and its private ownership for my lever, it is all possible. If it should be said that the people would eventually detect the fraud, and with swift vengeance hurl me and all my courtly parasites to perdition, I answer, "Nothing of the kind, the people are as good as gold, and would stand it like bricks - and I appeal to the facts of today to bear me witness."

*****

I'll leave you with another quote:

"The patience of the oppressed has always been the most inexplicable, as well as probably the most important, fact in all history."
- Author Amos Elon from "The Pity of it All"

August 14, 2009 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

"Some crimes are so big that we can't see them because we live in them"

-- Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE

August 14, 2009 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pay Justice, for these quotes. It seems our predicament is by no means new, nor not fully understood.

We are played for such fools.

August 14, 2009 8:38 PM  
Anonymous PJ said...

Gosh, Mairead and Anonymous, I'm so glad to know somebody actually read that piece! I hope you'll pass it around widely! Here's where it came from; a site I wish everyone would see just once:

BEarthright

It really is economics 101 right through to a PHD - and it's essential/vital/crucial for people to start understanding clearly the fundamental misconceptions our economics is based on.

Again, I appreciate more than you two can know, that you spoke up and allowed me to know you read it and get it!

August 15, 2009 7:34 AM  

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