Sign of the times

When I was out on a walk the other day (more details on Sunday), I noticed this sign:

At first glance, I thought it was just another variant on the same sort of sign you see a lot of when you’re walking – and it is, but note who it’s from. Yes, the Homes and Communities Agency, which is an agency supposedly owned by the public, and out to serve the public, declaring that a large patch of open space is private land. Not restricted, private – normally used to state that the owner doesn’t want plebs tramping over it.

But what if we plebs are the owner?

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2 Comments to "Sign of the times"

  1. September 19, 2009 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

    But we are not the owners – public ownership is a myth. The public do not own anything which is supposedly in public ownership. It is owned and controlled by a part of the state, which is a very very different thing to the general public (and is set above us to control and rule us).

    There is such a thing as common land and ownership in common, but that is something quite different (and is undermined consistently by government and the state).

  2. September 20, 2009 - 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Tristan writes: “But we are not the owners – public ownership is a myth”

    Public ownership is not “a myth”, Tristan. It’s just complicated. But no more so than a lot of private ownership. In fact it turns out that ownership is a far more complex concept than most people realise.

    Shareholders in, for example, the Coca-Cola Corporation own the company in the sense that they receive the profits generated, but they do not have the right to saunter into a bottling plant. They do not control access to the company’s property / assets. It’s the plant manager who controls access to that asset, so he’s the owner in that particular sense, though he doesn’t have the right to sell it of course and receives a salary not a slice of the profits. The operations director has the right to sell that asset, but receives no payment when it’s sold. So he shares a form of ownership. And the CEO gets to select the operations director (and by extension, the plant managers). So he has ownership in that sense.

    Even in more mundane situations, a person may privately “own” a house or a piece of land but is not necessarily allowed to do anything they want with it (planning permission will generally be at the discretion of someone else, for instance).

    Ownership is a very nebulous idea and if you describe public ownership as “a myth” then so is almost all ownership. The reality is that most ownership is “ownership in a restricted sense”. That doesn’t make it mythological.

    Paul Bowles fine (and very accessible) book, “Capitalism” covers this topic very well incidentally.

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