Critical Reflections on Human Rights and the Environment series
Chapter 8: What can be done? Some useful compromises
It will, I hope, have become clear in the preceding chapters that I take a generally favourable view of ownership. I believe that it can carry with it a love of the thing owned that can be both richly enjoyable to the owner and more widely beneficent. A thing that is loved and cared for is not only protected from harm, but may be more positively developed or improved, for a more general good. However, no one can deny that private ownership is a political matter that divides the right from the left. The gap that separates rich from poor, the haves from the have-nots, is growing wider, both within individual countries (most certainly in the UK), and across the world, dividing rich countries from poor. To take one small example, in Scotland more than half the land is owned by fewer than five hundred people, the largest landowner being the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns 240,000 acres, worth nearly £1 billion. The ancient aristocratic families who own such vast estates tend to argue in their own defence that much of the land is unproductive wilderness, and that only they understand how to look after it, and the game-birds whose habitat it is, and whose shooting brings huge revenue to the country (this last point, however, is of less significance than it would be if the owners were not, many of them, so adept at tax evasion).
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