Rule of Property

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Book: The Rule of Property. By Karen Coulter. Apex Press, 2008

URL = http://cipa-apex.org/books/A389/

Description

"In The Rule of Property, Karen Coulter offers a groundbreaking new perspective on the rise of private property over the public domain by linking two popular streams of thought: the legal history of the rise of corporate power developed by POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy) together with the new thinking about corporate encroachment on the ecological and social commons. Coulter, a member of POCLAD, is also a forest activist who watchdogs public lands against corporate theft.

Corporations are taking over public lands to build on, clear-cutting forests in national parks, taking over public water systems for private profit, using the results of research paid for by public funds to develop products that they privatize. It seems as though it has always been this way. Not so, says Karen Coulter, Director of the Blue Mountain Biodiversity Project.

And in The Rule of Property, she shows us how private interests, and increasingly, corporations, have been taking over the public domain — the commons. Since before the American Revolution, corporations have been laying claim to the commons including government-owned property, natural systems (e.g. oceans and atmosphere), community gardens, land trusts and Linux computer software, public libraries and scientific knowledge and cultural traditions.

"The conflict between individual property rights and the struggle for democracy has gone on for centuries ... and continues today," explains Coulter. The concept of private property has been developed to disguise this takeover of the commons. In The Rule of Property we see the methodical development of private property rights by the wealthy and the concomitant diminution of the commons.

In this historically illustrated pamphlet, Coulter examines the struggles surrounding these takings in order to suggest a way out. "We need to tell others the hidden history of structured inequality and Commons enclosure in order to dislodge the deeply held assumptions about property that allow private property rights to dominate all other social and ecological concerns."

Coulter challenges conventional approaches to private property versus the public good, explores ways in which the U.S. Constitution was framed to protect private property, and advocates organized resistance to corporate enclosures of the modern commons.

With the publication of The Rule of Property, The Apex Press, a program of the Council on International and Public Affairs, launches its Real Democracy Pamphlet Series. According to Ward Morehouse, President of the Council, "We are reviving the tradition, made famous by Thomas Paine, of low-cost, timely treatises to foster discussion on the democratic goals set forth in the Declaration of Independence." (http://cipa-apex.org/books/A389/)