One of the most cherished foundations of freedom is the concept of property ownership rights. We have been taught that individual liberty is impossible without private property rights. This assertion is always framed by a comparison to communism, fascism or some other statism in which all property is owned or controlled by the government or a powerful ruling elite. It is based on the assumption that there are only two poles which limit our options, either Individual ownership or state ownership. Of course there is a continuum of possibilities that arise between the two poles such as corporate monopolies and public-private partnerships, but someone must always be the owner.
The Fathers of Confederation in the USA championed the private ownership ideal which became the cornerstone of free market capitalism. The radical idea of free markets interrupted the world history of dynastic control of property. The rein and exclusive rights of conquerors, royalty and dictators were suddenly challenged. China, Russia and a host of other countries resisted this infection called freedom and continued to define the rules of life at the other pole of consolidated state ownership.
Throughout the 20th century many different idealisms were spawned in the political fields between the two poles. Communism, Fascism, Socialism have all tried different blends of ownership, power and property sharing. All have remained trapped however within the boundaries of either individual or state ownership.
The concept of usership introduces a third pole that is quite distinct from anything that has yet been tried. Usership asserts that neither state nor individuals have the right to own anything. This claim is based on two fundamental ideas. The first suggests that the earth’s natural resources rightly belong to all living things both here now and yet to come. Implied in this is the notion that our current civilization is simply borrowing the use of our planetary resources from all species and generations yet to come, hence we are obligated to shepherd and protect them to the best that our knowledge and ability will allow. Reckless squandering and waste of resources constitutes a crime against creation which cannot be justified by the current laws of economics and profit.
The second cornerstone of usership is the belief that all individuals who contribute to society have the right to use and possess a share of the collective output of society. The share that a person can possess is determined by the number of hours that they personally contribute their productivity to society. They cannot take more value than they contribute, and they cannot usurp or expropriate any of the value of another person’s contributions. New money generated by working is all there is to use and possess a portion of the collective output. Major assets cannot be owned, bought or sold, or accumulated to loan or rent out to others. Money is simply a receipt for work already performed that people exchange for the right to use a portion of the products and services that are communally produced by everyone in society. There is no government, state or private ownership at all.
Usership rights provide the same guarantee of exclusive possession and private use as ownership rights. No one else has any right to use or claim any of the assets or products that you are currently using. If you move into a house, or purchase a car, no one else can share those assets or take them away from you. They are exclusively yours to possess and use privately for as long as you want.
Usership rights make it possible to introduce a host of radical benefits to society. All major assets could be priced according to their depreciation cost. If a house is built to last 100 years and it costs $600,000 to build it then the annual depreciation cost would be $6,000 ($600,000 divided by 100 years) or $500 a month. If a similar house built with better materials is designed to last 150 years and it costs $720,000 to build it then the annual depreciation cost would be $4,800 ($720,000 divided by 150 years) or just $400 a month. So a better built, environmentally superior house would actually be less expensive to use than a lesser quality one. Usership rights turn planned obsolescence on its head.
No money down, no mortgage, no interest payments. Simply contact a real estate agent, browse the available listings until you find one you like, then sign a usership agreement and move in. The real estate agent removes the listing from the available properties and you can enjoy an exclusive, private use of the property. The usership agreement stipulates the monthly depreciation cost of using the property that you must pay but other than that there will be no legal costs or registration fees. If you decide you want to move out then you simply contact a real estate agent to have the property reappraised and relisted. If you have upgraded the property and increased its value you will receive a credit and the new value will be used to determine future depreciation costs. If you have damaged the property and lowered its value you will be required to pay an additional depreciation premium.
Usership rights make it impossible to speculate or profit from property ownership. Homes are designed and built using human and natural resources that are collectively owned. The people involved are fully paid for their contributions to society as the work is being done. The purchasing power they receive can unlock usership rights to everything that society produces. All goods and services are produced, produced, and consumed collectively. All major assets like homes, cottages, business assets, vehicles, major appliances, etc. could be priced using the depreciated cost method. Usership rights annihilate the need for borrowed money from other people.
By comparison, ownership rights are actually a burden on freedom. Ownership rights encumber assets with titles, deeds, registrations, liens, mortgages, taxes and other legal burdens and complications. Acquisition, transfer and disposal costs are expensive and time consuming. Also, the promise of freedom and security from ownership is largely a myth. Until you have paid for an asset completely, although you may have possession of it, you really don’t own it or have any guaranteed rights to use it. Try missing a few mortgage or tax payments and you’ll soon see who really has the rights to your house. Private ownership necessitates the insurance costs of protecting your assets. Owners are individually responsible for the financial burden of disasters. If fire consumes a home occupied under usership rights, the residents simply move to another vacant property. There is no need to rebuild the old dwelling. The real estate agent permanently removes the property from the public listings and society as a whole absorbs the depreciation cost.
A society without private ownership would no longer be dependent upon any wealthy elites, be they governments, corporations or individuals. The money to compensate individual labour would arise spontaneously from the act of working. In other words, all money is created simply by the act of contributing your productivity and time to society. Money is simply a receipt for time spent cooperating productively with society. Money gives you purchasing power but it cannot be owned. Spending money (consumption) reduces the value of the earned receipt to nothing. Money does not recirculate. Money is extinguished the moment it is spent. To get more, you must once again work. No credit or debt is necessary.
Our current money and economic system has been crumbling under the weight of unpayable debt for decades. The financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated how ridiculously unstable and unfair our debt-based monetary system is. Trillions of dollars in government aid bailed out the criminal class who was too big to fail. Millions of people’s lives were destroyed by a syndicate of reckless gamblers and liars who continue to run our governments. Now Covid 19 has triggered another crisis to destabilize the global economy, suspend individual freedoms and rights, and consolidate power into the hands of an unelected cabal of technocratic billionaires. The only way to stop these psychopaths is to destroy the power tools of greed they use to exploit us. Profit and private ownership have to go. We don’t need them anymore. We really can “build back better” without them.