MANKIND has taken quite a few wrong turns. The worst by far was the institution of slavery which, after a lengthy struggle, has been greatly – but not yet wholly – diminished. Another wrong turn, the ownership of land by comparatively few to the detriment of many, is still thriving.

For one thing, it adds needlessly to the price of food produced by farmers who must pay for the privilege of working the laird’s acres. It adds needlessly also to the price of housing built on land purchased from its former owner. And it creates a ridiculous honour paid by many to their local landowner. (I inhabit an area with its smattering of toffs and toadies.)

Worst of all, of course, is the possession of huge tracts of land by owners who either neglect it or develop it in ways which are of no use to many but delight only a rich few. There is a simple remedy to all this. It is the repossession of all land by its citizens – a complete end to the possibility of the buying or selling of land or of its being bequeathed.

How can this be so organised as to allow: 1) each of us to be guaranteed a little private space; and 2) ventures to thrive which require the guaranteed use of portions of land?

The answer – land will be either: 1) freely lent by the people to all who wish to build or buy one dwelling house there in which they and their family will reside, the extent of this ground made relative to the size of the building, but never exceeding a determined maximum; or 2) for rent to those whose purpose is to conduct businesses approved by the people, and for which the guaranteed use of land is a necessary prerequisite.

The rate of payment asked will be in proportion to the assumed benefit this business will bring to the Common Weal. Food production, for instance, will incur no more than a nominal payment whereas an activity affordable by only a wealthy few will incur a considerable charge.

Although land itself will never be for sale, any buildings or other facilities situated there will be available for sale or let. There must however be strict curbs on the profits to be got from such activities. Regarding sale, the profit gained should never exceed in real terms a fixed percentage of the price at which the property was acquired when last for sale. With lets, the charge should never exceed a fixed percentage of the figure at which the property could legally be sold.

Such arrangements will of course seem completely unacceptable to the owners of large estates and their like, especially since no mention is made of compensation for loss of an asset which it may have proved costly to acquire, and a charge laid upon them should they wish to continue with its use.

This, however, is not the seizure of a commodity which can be resold. Land, as we claim, will leave the market completely as an item for sale. Moreover, all investment is made at a risk.

The particular risk in this instance may, like many, have been completely unforeseen but in this way it is no different from investment in a commodity which at the time of investment was much in demand, but whose usefulness suddenly ceased through the discovery of a commodity more useful for the purpose it served.

And none can deny that landed families have for long, in some cases for centuries, enjoyed more than a fair share of national wealth, and still may prosper, should they choose to use what remains at their disposal as business managers working for the Common Weal.

I myself have worked this out in greater detail than I choose to give here. I leave it to others at this point to work out for themselves how such principles might apply, simply commending such basic principles as, hopefully, a helpful simplifying clarification and a logical basis on which to proceed.

William Imray