There are several different types of property rights which we might acquire or create during our lives. These are:
a. Property Rights In Land
Land has only
about four possible uses: 1) as a place upon which we might
construct some structure suitable for our use, either as a dwelling, as
a place for us to conduct commercial activities, or as infrastructure
in support of other uses; 2) as a place to grow things, either for
food or other commercial uses; 3) as a place for us to enjoy, for
hobby or recreational uses; or 4) simply as a form of storage for
value (i.e., an "investment" or "speculation"), because we "feel
better" with our "money" invested in land, instead of in the bank or in
some other form of investment.
Land has value in accordance with the ease to which it may be put to one or more of the above uses, and in accordance with the aesthetics of the particular piece of property as compared with other properties of the same sort. The "desirability" which we feel about any given piece of property is simply an internal integration of our perceptions of the relative values for these two qualities against the particular use which we have in mind for the land.
Technology can clearly affect land values in dramatic ways. Land which was all but valueless may acquire substantial value due to some proximity to a new source of water (i.e., a "dam" or "aqueduct") or transportation (i.e., a "railroad" or "freeway"). Similarly, land which was extremely valuable at one point in time may be reduced in value as some sort of technology either increases the quantity of competing similar pieces of land, or even makes a particular sort of building to be totally obsolete.
As we become increasingly integrated into our new "information society," we will be less and less tied to a necessity of being in one particular place. Fiber optic cables and computer information networks will make it increasingly easy to exchange all sorts of information between any two places on the face of our planet. This will mean that we could live anywhere that we choose, and have a job with any company which we choose, without regard to where we and the company which we work for are mutually located. This will have tremendous consequences for our society as a whole. Companies will no longer be forced to pay the "prevailing wage" for office workers who are basically just information processors. Lower cost workers from other areas can just as easily be hired to fill in for any of them. More people will work at home, avoiding commuting to and from work. That means more and more companies will not even have any offices at all, relying entirely upon a "virtual office" occupied by "virtual employees" who each physically exist at their respective homes.
It is difficult to overemphasize the extremely disrupting trend which adoption of the information infrastructure will have on our society as a whole. Inner city areas, which have not been desirable places for anyone other than the poorest of our citizens, are likely to become "war zones" as the "law abiding" population no longer feels any need to support the cities with taxes for police. At the other end of the scale, entirely new cities will erupt virtually anywhere that water, electricity, and communications may be had. Merely the fact that these cities are "new" and thus lack the "lower class elements" of the old cities will attract those who increasingly find those old cites to be "repulsive." The traditional cultural events which kept the upper classes near the major cities will be presented "live" on "pay-per-view" television, thereby eliminating the last vestiges of what keeps our major cities intact. Who would take their lives in their hands to personally visit some entertainment if it is better presented "live" on life-sized screens in our own homes?
The foundations of feelings such as these are rooted in our deepest fears and insecurities. I never once went to attend a football game for the Los Angeles Raiders during their entire stay in Southern California. Why? Because the stadium is located in one of the roughest areas of Los Angeles, and had insufficient parking. Instead, I bought a satellite dish so I could watch those games, even if they were not available on local television. While I may be an extreme case for those years, the "great leap forward" in technology will make those sorts of feelings into a habit for most of us.
But, with every "problem" is an "opportunity." If we "buy low," we can then rehabilitate those areas into something desirable, and "sell high." However, the program which the Agnostic Church envisions for inner city reform is beyond the scope of this section on land.
The key to manipulation of the market for land values is to recognize the fundamental feelings which go into a purchase of land. For individuals, it is the security and sense of "belonging" which come with a home which is owned. For most businesses, it is a need to be near the target market for the goods and/or services which the business sells. Agriculture uses impose a different set of parameters, as we must be able to afford a sufficient quantity of land to be able to grow our desired raw product(s), but we still would like to also be near the next stage processing facility for turning those products into intermediate and/or end user products for further sale. Most of us recognize the value of recreation, and most of us are behind efforts to set aside some portion of our land, particularly where some unique natural resource exists, in order to save that land for recreational uses.
If we leap back several thousand years in time, we can see the beginnings of our system of property rights in the farms of the Neolithic portion of the Stone Age. If I am going to spend an entire growing season creating a crop of <something>, the last thing in the world which I want is for someone to come in just after I have harvested that crop and take it away from me. Nor do I want someone to take away the land which I have cleared and established irrigation systems for raising such a crop each year. The need to defend against roving bands of thugs led to the "good" people banding together for their own protection. This leads to the earliest forms of feudalism. However, the leaders of some feudalistic groups would then desire the holdings of other such groups, and that leads to wars between the groups. Gradually over a long period of time, agriculture leads to concepts of property rights, the need to protect property rights leads to the beginning of feudalism, and as wealth increases in the upper classes, they begin to have excess money and property to allocate for recreation, art, and religion, so feudalism eventually leads to the beginnings of a Culture.
Western Civilization is probably the first civilization on our planet to devote some substantial portion of our intellectual resources to the determination of how our early cultures formed. Thus, it was not until our own century that a work such as Spengler's was even possible. Now that we understand how a Culture comes to be formed, perhaps we are now also in a position to deliberately alter that methodology so that we need not begin with a rural-agricultural population centered on a farming economy and the importance of agricultural land to who we are as a people. It may then be possible to create an ordered society which is not predicated upon violence as its most basic value. That can only come by de-emphasizing the role which property, and in particular, land, plays in our concepts of who we are as individuals on this planet. Thus, one of the goals of the Agnostic Church is to effect such a change in our basic values, thereby devaluing all forms of property, including land.
Money is merely an
abstract and fungible form of property. In order to be able to trade
any form of property for any other form of property, the concept of
"money" is a necessary development. It is difficult enough in a complex
economy to find someone who needs (or at least wants) what you have to
trade. It would be many times more difficult if you had to find someone
who not only met that criteria, but also had something which you wanted
to receive in return, and where there was the necessary balance in the
Only the most primitive sort of economy can exist with "barter" as the basis of exchange. Even where "barter" is not entirely absent, money allows uneven trades to take place, with the difference in value made up with "money." But again, money should never be viewed as an end unto itself. It is only a means of exchange so that we can most easily trade our labor for the goods and services which we need or desire.
Because money is merely a way to exchange goods for something which we may not even yet know what it is, and to store value during periods when we have given up something of value and have not yet purchased something to replace that value in our lives, money does not need a lengthy dissertation of position in this essay. The money you have simply represents the goods and services which you could buy (or perhaps have bought and have not yet paid for).
c. Durable Goods
Anything which we
plan to keep for some amount of time, as opposed to just use once (or a
small number of times) and then throw it away, is a "durable" good. In
essence, except for the place in which we live, it is virtually
everything which any "average" person considers to be "theirs."
Business has a vested interest in convincing us to have increasing quantities of durable goods, so we are developing into a nation of "pack rats." Just think of all of the "self storage" yards around which didn't exist at all a mere four decades ago. All of them are somewhat full of durable goods which we just cannot bring ourselves to throw away, and which we maybe even wonder why we ever bought in the first place. Nonetheless, we pay huge amounts of money every month to the places which store our "extra" things, because we have no place left to store such stuff in the residences in which we can afford to live.
The position of the Agnostic Church with respect to durable goods is that we must: 1) alter the training which we receive so that we are resistant to the purchase of durable goods which we will never use, or use only a small fraction of the total number of times (or the total time) which a particular durable good could be used for; 2) encourage the increased "recycling" of durable goods by encouraging the consignment of "garage sale" type goods to "thrift store" operations where the person providing the goods in question receives some financial return for their goods; 3) where durable goods are used primarily as a store for "information," (i.e., for books, magazines, newspapers, audio and video recordings, and various sorts of personal records), encourage the computerization of the "information" into a public data bank which has appropriate access restrictions if the "information" needs to remain private, but where only one copy needs to be kept if the "information" may be made available to anyone with an appropriate access level;3 and 4) encourage the shared use of as many kinds of durable goods as is practicable by some or all members of the "tribe" (i.e., the "extended family" of each individual) to which each individual belongs.4
d. Consumable Goods
are any form of goods which are designed to be used only once, or a
small number of times over a short period, and then discarded. Food and
water are probably our most necessary consumables, but this category
also includes many products which are used every day, such as soap and
The policy of the Agnostic Church is to encourage principles of environmental concern in our use of consumable goods. This means encouraging the recycling of packaging materials (i.e., soda bottles) and waste products in any way which is both cost effective and practicable. Above all, we should minimize our use of resources which are not renewable,5 thereby forcing a choice of renewable resources if some practical alternative exists.
Services are a
form of consumable. Services also include some things which do involve
the consumption of resources, such as the manufacture of electricity6
from oil or other non-renewable energy sources. In general, services
encompasses every conceivable manner of transferring something of value
to another individual other than a transfer of goods of money.
One measure of the state of advancement of any particular population is to divide them up into groups and compare the relative percentage of the population which is involved in the production of goods versus the percentage which is involved in the production of services. The smaller the percentage involved with goods and the larger the percentage involved with services, the more advanced is the particular population being measured.
In keeping with its overall policy of environmental concern, the policy of the Agnostic Church is to encourage the development of a service economy and to discourage the production of goods (except to the extent actually needed by the population for survival and/or achievement of significant happiness), unless those goods are produced from "renewable" sources (i.e., from agriculture).
f. Intellectual Property
There is one final form of property right which needs some special discussion. Intellectual property is a form of knowledge, and is to be encouraged as part of the overall search for Truth. One way in which that search is encouraged is to grant some rights in the intellectual property which is "discovered" as part of the fruits of the labor of individuals. Such rights generally go by names such as "trade secrets," "patent rights," or "copyrights." For the time being, the Agnostic Church sees no particular need to alter the present status of these rights as transferable property rights as they now exist under our present system of laws.
3 Refer to the "Dangerous Knowledge Dogma" for more information on the need for restricting access to certain kinds of information.
4 There are, admittedly, some problems with this concept. Wherever community use of durable goods has been tried, people seem to naturally not take as good care of such goods as they might if the goods were their own property. Also, our feelings of security seem to be increased if we know that some particular item is "always available" for our use, whenever we might wish to use it, no matter what the actual record of our use might be. Finally, there are many items of this sort which seem to become easily associated with other items or information which we deem to be part of our individual "private selves." Items left in an automobile and data stored on a computer hard disk seem to put cars and computers into this class of durable goods. All of those problems can be overcome by establishing certain policies for the management of such "joint use" of the shared durable goods, and by training the people who are sharing them in our new value system. But we should recognize that the change will not come without pain.
5 Technically speaking, oil is a renewable resource. However, it is not renewable as a practical matter on a time scale which is commensurate with our rate of use. Accordingly, for any resource which falls into this category, it is to be considered as "non-renewable" except to the extent which the resource can actually be renewed within a practical amount of time. Trees, on the other hand, are generally to be considered to be a renewable resource, as only the failure to plant new trees in the place of those which are harvested would cause our supply of trees to decrease. There are exceptions, however, for such things as "old growth" redwood trees, etc.
6 Electricity is probably the most ambiguous of the typical home utilities. It could just as easily be argued that electricity is a "consumable" form of goods. The other consumable goods which are typically home utilities are water and gas. The other services which a home might have as utilities would include sewer service, trash service, telephone service, and cable television service. These last two are specialized forms of electrical utilities, and it is consideration of them which leads me to classify basic electric utilities as a form of "service."
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