Owning the land tends to equate to owning any resources in the land – minerals and water most especially. Thus the ‘right’ to control resources that everyone depends on, is not equally distributed. As Nestle push to own water, and fracking poisons water for many, the question of ownership is especially pertinent at the moment.
It’s worth thinking about how land ownership comes to exist. How do people obtain the resources to buy large tracts of land? And however many times the land has changed hands, the history of ownership comes back to violence. In Europe that tends to mean kings, feudalism, conquest, and in many parts of the world it means the violence of colonialism, the forced taking of land from its indigenous people and all that has flowed from that. Go back far enough in history and no one owned land. The idea of kingdoms, and the idea of big kingdoms and control of vast land areas, is more recent. How many people own land because their ancestors took it by force?
I wonder what it would be like if no one had the right to privately own and exploit material resources. Land, and all that is in the land, and on the land, the water, and the air held as common property in which fair access for all is the priority. Without the scope to exploit these commons for profit, we’d probably have a lot less consumerist culture, and fewer accumulation habits and would be more sustainable. If you can only exploit the land for the good of your community, the whole basis for decisions about benefit and usefulness would shift.
In such a situation, we would own the fruits of our labours. We would own our ideas, the work of our hands, our time. It would move us away from stuff, and towards doing. I suspect such a shift would create radical cultural change, because that minority of people who do nothing useful for anyone else but extract wealth and power through their ability to control the resources we all depend on, would no longer hold that power, while people doing useful things would more readily be respected.