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Are You an Owner or a Trespasser?

By       Message Richmond Shreve       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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It's humor, but there's a biting irony. Do you see it?

An estate owner to a trespasser: "Get off my property!"

Trespasser: "Where did you get it?"

Owner: "From my father."

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Trespasser: "Where did he get it?"

"From his father."

"Where did he get it?"

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"From his father."

"Where did he get it?"

"He fought for it!"

Trespasser: "Well then, I'll fight you for it."

~ anonymous, (a viral internet humor item.)

Much of the news we exchange opinions about here on OpEdNews.com pivots on our unexamined assumptions about ownership. You think you own your home? Try putting up a new cell tower in your yard; or stop paying on your mortgage; or neglect a few tax payments; or lose a personal injury suit. You own only what your community agrees to support your ownership of. Your ownership is more of a stewardship with benefits.

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How about the water in the stream that flows through your town? Can the town up stream dump their raw sewage in it? How about the air you breathe? Can you neighbor burn his used tires upwind of you?

Silly questions. Of course there are limits on individual ownership. We have laws about all that stuff and we enforce those laws with the full might of the government. But scale up your thinking to a national level. What rights do the various sovereign states that the Colorado River flows through have to the water? What rights do the companies that own mountains in West Virginia have to tear off the top, extract coal, and allow the rain to leach toxins into rivers and streams? What rights do power companies have to draw in fresh air and exhaust carbon dioxide and sulfur compounds?

These questions are being fought over as I write this. We have collective rights, most but not all of which are protected by our present laws. Universal access to clean water and healthy air are obvious justice issues, but not absolutely protected by national or international laws. We collectively "own" our world's air and water and no individual should have a superior right to our collective right. Some would say that this notion is socialist or communist. But our capitalist society is struggling right now to resolve these matters. Scarcity is eroding the property rights we take for granted.

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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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