A recent book by Julian Pratt, Stewardship Economy: private property without private ownership, builds on the tradition of Thomas Spence, Henry George, Hillel Steiner and others to review western attitudes to land and the environment. It argues that the system of private property rights, ownership, that we apply to the things we make (artefacts) is entirely inappropriate when applied to the natural world (both land and the environment).
The book does not challenge the existence of private property in the natural world but it proposes that this should take the form of stewardship not ownership. A steward of the natural world has:
- the right of access – to use it in the way that they choose, within the constraints of any relevant regulations
- the responsibility of care – to manage it responsibly and husband it for future generations, accepting liability for any damage done to it
- the duty of compensation – to pay an annual fee, equal to its market rent, into a fund that is used to benefit everyone as government revenue (in place of conventional taxes) and as a Universal Income
- ownership, in the conventional sense, of any buildings or other improvements.
The author sets out the practical benefits of a stewardship economy and discusses how to make a transition from an ownership economy. A supplementary volume, to be published later in the year, will trace the ethical and practical arguments for stewardship from the perspectives of property rights, economics, optimal taxation and benefit systems.