Property Rights Redux

Roy Gothie, a planner for the Maryland State Highway Administration, argues that 'only a societal decision to redefine an individual's rights regarding property can restore [Chesapeake Bay].'

"Developers, industrialists, homeowners and farmers have long assumed that the core bundle of rights attached to a piece of property exists to benefit the property owners. This is not exactly the case. Property rights are creations of the state, designed to ensure a stable, civil society and a functioning economy. Thus, any property rights a land owner possesses exist mainly to serve the greater public good.

Historically, society's need for economic growth favored intensive, extractive use and privileged individual property owners by restricting others from interfering in the use of "their" land. This view failed to consider the almost unimaginable sensitivity and complexity of multiple ecosystems or to accurately value the future needs of society. The ecological disasters that resulted from this misconception can be observed across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

We must therefore redefine rights in property based upon current scientific and cultural valuations of ecosystem services."

Full Story: Redefining property rights

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