CCQ Number 9 Is There A Place For Public Land?

Blair has a good question

Trevor, do you think that there is a place for publicly owned land ie. parks and roads, or do you think it is possible for society to work well with only private ownership of these things?

I have an open mind on these things and would be interested in your perspective.

Ideally Blair, there would be no need for publicly owned land, beyond parliament, courthouses, prisons, military bases and other facilities needed by the very few legitimate organs of government.

Does this mean that Hagley Park, Central Park or Hyde Park would be turned into apartment blocks or car parks? Would your local playground be planted in spuds?

In a free society, virtually all land would be privately owned, by individuals, companies, businesses, charities, churches, trusts or body corporates.

Freed of town planning restrictions and the distortion and huge extra expense this entails, towns would be much easier and cheaper to build. That means more money would be available for adding value.

Mini parks, green belts, wetlands etc would be part and parcel of most successful developments, because it is what people want. Parks would not be confined to certain areas, but would be peppered amongst the urban sprawl.

Large parks would still exist and may be run by trusts, individuals or companies. Admission may be free, or by nominal charge, you may join your local park trust, which gives you free access to allied parks. The possibilities are endless..

As a former hunter and fisherman, I’m concerned about the great outdoors. How could I hunt deer, rabbits, ducks or quail, or catch a trout, salmon or snapper, if all the land and water was in private hands? What if I were poor, or didn’t know any friendly land owners?

I would envisage that outdoor recreation opportunities would be far greater than now.

Fish and game would be valuable commercial assets, not treated as vermin as is sometimes the case now.

Imagine huge game parks run by hunters trusts, leased from backcountry runholders and paid for by charging their members a nominal fee. Swamps specifically designed to promote waterfowl breeding and hunting opportunities, run by private companies, hunters trusts or sports clubs.

Private beaches, with purpose built reefs to attract game fish. Birdwatchers parks leased from farmers or mining companies or run by conservation trusts.

Kiwi and Takahe farms run by entrepreneurs selling breeding stock to the world’s animal parks. No commercially valuable animal has ever become extinct to my knowledge.

I believe that freed from the dead hand of state control, private landowners would improve our environment out of sight. There might be charges for access to some areas, but we pay licence and access fees now, to hunt or tramp on our own Department of Conservation land. Also our taxes would be minimal and our wealth greater. The demand for outdoor recreation would probably expand and entrepreneurs and volunteer groups would be falling over each other to meet it.

Capitalism has brought everyone a huge choice of food at a very low cost. Free up land and entrepeneurs and dedicated volunteers will bring everyone far more and better, outdoor recreation opportunities than most of us currently enjoy.

In a free society, towns would be greener and would expand naturally and organically, driven by demand, rather than choked by ‘planning”. Our rural and marine resources would be far better managed and utilised than they are now.

Imagine a stretch of privately owned beach. It supports a camping ground, an oyster farm, a water skiing area, a snapper reef, a marina, a patrolled swimming beach, a specially constucted surf break and a kelp farm. All designed so that each area enhances the next. Can you imagine DOC doing that?

Socialism degrades our environment as any Russian will tell you. Freedom will allow talented people to shape and improve our landscape in ways we cannot begin to conceive.

Do we need publicly owned land, roads, parks and the like?

The question should be…can we afford to allow such hugely valuable resources to be wasted, degraded and squandered by the state?

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13 thoughts on “CCQ Number 9 Is There A Place For Public Land?

  1. Interesting response. I think a lot of the problem is that there are few avenues in society to assert one’s property rights over the land one does own. It goes without saying that if say, Central Park in New York was owned by private interests, then it would be far more valuable to develop than keep as a park. However, this would of course lower the property values of the surrounding buildings. There needs to be an easy legal mechanism (without resorting to draconian measures a la the RMA) by which, should a private developer wish to fill Central Park with buildings, the property rights of adjacent owners can be duly compensated for the drop in values resulting from no longer living next to the world’s most famous bit of green turf. This would, in all likelihood, make the cost of development of the park too high and preserve it in private hands.

    As for private ownership of roads, I’m still not convinced that it would work. You would either have to have collective ownership of the road by residents (in which case, there would be little difference between that and council ownership), or corporate ownership, where revenue collection would be difficult and the possibility of abuse of freedom of movement could occur.

  2. There needs to be an easy legal mechanism (without resorting to draconian measures a la the RMA) by which, should a private developer wish to fill Central Park with buildings, the property rights of adjacent owners can be duly compensated for the drop in values resulting from no longer living next to the world’s most famous bit of green turf.

    No there doesn’t. They have no property right in the value of their properties, and therefore nothing to be compensated for.

    As for private ownership of roads, I’m still not convinced that it would work.

    It used to work just fine. What’s changed?

  3. Yacap, that’s horseshit. If I purchase a property for $500k and somebody builds something next to me that reduces the value to $400k, I deserve compensation. My neighbour has effectively stolen $100k from me by his actions.

    And when was this mythical time where we had private ownership of roads? Are you referring to the feudal lords of the middle ages? Again you are talking out your arse.

  4. Blair

    The problem here arises in the transition from socialism to freedom.

    If you invested in a company that made its money through import licencing, then that licencing was abolished, I would say you had no right to compensation.

    If Central Park had never been set up by the NY Council, the problem never would have arisen as NY would have a very different and possibly better landscape.

    If it were privatised now, I’m sure the surrounding property owners would set up a corporation to run it, to preserve their property values if nothing else.

    I believe that in a free society you only have right to damages if physical harm is caused or a legal agreement is broken.

    If a neighbour pollutes your stream, or builds so high he shades your property, or makes excessive noise, you have the right of redress.

    If he sets up a bikie HQ, a brothel or a cult HQ next door, bad luck.

    That is, unless yours and his properties are members of a body corporate which specify what activities are permissible.

    I think that most towns and suburbs in a free society would run this way. That way they could easily get rid of gangs, streetwalkers, Nos shops, Jehovahs Witnesses etc, far more easily than local bodies currently can.

    I will deal with the roading issue on another post.

  5. OK, blair, let’s say you own the only dairy within 50 miles of your house. Now somebody comes along and opens up another dairy just down the street. Surely your dairy is now worth less; has the new guy “effectively stolen” anything from you? If not, what’s the difference? If so, would you say that any business that competes with another (even if it’s in a completely different line of business, it will bid away resources from others) should compensate the others.

    What is the value of your property? Its value to you is one thing; it’s value if you try to sell it – its value to other people – is something that only exists in other people’s minds/opinions. If reducing the sales value of your property (influencing other people’s opinions) is “stealing”, then you’re claiming that you have a property right over other people’s opinions – that other people are your mental slaves, not permitted to change their opinions without your permission? Sounds pretty insane to me.

  6. “OK, blair, let’s say you own the only dairy within 50 miles of your house. Now somebody comes along and opens up another dairy just down the street. Surely your dairy is now worth less;”

    The yield on the investment would decrease but the building itself wouldn’t decrease in value.

    If a nuclear waste dump was to open up next door to your family home, the value of that home would decrease dramatically. Moving away might not be a viable option. If you sell the house, it might not give you enough money to buy a new house in a better location.

  7. “No commercially valuable animal has ever become extinct to my knowledge”

    Passenger pigeon once the most numerous bird in the entire world, very commercially valuable for a long time now extinct.

  8. The primary reason a nuclear waste dump next door would affect the value is because of dangerous pollution from the waste dump crossing onto your property. That’s an entirely different matter (in essence, a trespass).

    The yield on the investment would decrease but the building itself wouldn’t decrease in value.

    Oh, so it’s only the value of the building that matters?

    Another scenario: what if you live in some out-of-the-way place where you own a house that you bought for $80,000; now along comes Shania Twain or someone and buys land nearby; in a few years, your area is the playground of rich Hollywood types, Peter Jackson, minor European royalty, etc., and you sell your land for $30,000,000 to Steven Spielberg. Now, if Steven had caused your house that you bought for $30,000,000 to sell for $80,000, you claim he “stole” from you and owes you compensation, so surely it works the other way around: if your $80,000 house sells for $30,000,000 then you are stealing, and owe him compensation, no? I.e., property prices must never be allowed to change! Whatever you buy for, that’s what you must sell for, or one party is stealing from the other!

    If you sell the house, it might not give you enough money to buy a new house in a better location.

    Tough. Why do you think you’re owed a guarantee that you can resell a house at all, let alone for similar money as, or more than, you paid for it?

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