Citizenship and Equal Rights to Land

John T. Tetley

[Reprinted from The Gargoyle, January 1976]

It so happened, I was born in New Jersey, U.S.A. I might have been born in Moscow, Russia, or in Peking, China, or South Africa, or So. Carolina.

In other words, I came into the world at a place. It rather seems to me that there is a scheme of things, and it is intended that human beings fit into this scheme.

Human beings must have, in addition to air to breath, and water to drink, space to occupy. They must have food to sustain life. On most parts of the planet Earth they also need clothing and shelter. The only source of food, clothing and shelter is Natural Resources. Therefore human beings must have access to Natural Resources if they are to live.

It is also evident that Natural Resources vary as to quality, extent and location. For instance, soil varies from the most fertile by degrees to the most barren. Minerals vary from the fittest to the worthless. For particular uses, locations vary from the highly desired to those desired least.

How is the allocation for use of natural resources to be determined? Which human beings are entitled to use the very best and which next-best, etc., down to those who must use the least desirable? If human being "B" surrenders his right to use the best to human being "A", would it not seem fair and just that "B" be reimbursed, for so doing? Of course there follows "C" and "D" and many, many more human beings, each surrendering their equal rights to superior resources, accepting use of poorer ones.

Is it an impossible task to devise and administer a system which would give every human being compensation for surrendering to all others the advantage of using the superior Natural Resources?

Probably -- yes. At least, at this point in human development such a system cannot be conceived. However, some approach to it might be within the realm of possibility. What is involved roughly may be divided, into two categories: the Rental Value of Land and the Severance Value of Natural Resources. When the annual rental value of land is collected by the community for the support of local government, as an "example, the effect is that each person using land above the marginal land is paying into a fund and that fund in effect is used to reimburse those who surrender their equal right to use superior land.

Thus the desirability of equalization of rights of individuals to the surface of the earth would seem to be achieved. In other words, I, born in New Jersey, by virtue of the present scheme of things am a citizen of the U.S.A. (a political and geographical unit). I am entitled to the very best "chunk of land surface" in the United States. So is every other U.S. citizen. However, as things exist now administration on a local basis seems best for "site occupancy". Therefore a system whereby the annual rental value of land is collected by the community would seem to be a fair and equitable Land Tenure System.

Now, in a larger political and geographical unit of which I am a citizen, there are minerals, natural gas and, oil, etc. perhaps none of which are to be found in the local community in which I reside, or even in the State. But they are found elsewhere including, off the coast of some States such as Mississippi. I believe I am just as much entitled to ownership of these natural resources as is the guy who just happened to be born in Miss, or in Oklahoma City. Therefore, if the Federal Government of the U.S. is to collect the severance value (royalties) of natural resources, in effect, I would be reimbursed for surrendering my equal right of proportionate ownership in all such natural resources.

It seems to me that if all the royalties for inland and off-shore severance value of such resources were collected by a Federal agency there might be sufficient revenue derived for-the support of the Federal Government and I think an excess. This excess might well be allocated for use in the States for such things as highways, parks, and the like.

The "accident" of place of birth then would not be so advantageous to some and disadvantageous to others. All would be sharing equally in the use of the earth.