Ownership: Summary

by Manfred Davidmann

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What you see here has to a considerable extent been drawn from two previously-published works by Manfred Davidmann {1, 2}, bringing together in one place material from these and a number of earlier reports.

Ownership is the right to possess something and to decide what is to be done with it. If I own something it belongs to me and I decide what to do with it. An example would be owning a house.

Possession is having something in one's custody as distinct from owning it. If I possess something it belongs to another but I can decide how to use it. An example would be renting a house.

Another example is deciding what to do with one's money (ownership) or deciding on and controlling the use of money belonging to someone else (possession).

Regarding the right to ownership, two questions need to be considered, namely: where does the right come from and how is it exercised?

Rights to own property differ from one society to another. Ownership rights are based on man-made laws and there has been little, if any, grass-roots community-orientated participation in their drafting. Ownership laws which assign ownership 'rights' have been devised by the owners themselves or by those who serve them.

Private ownership of land and means of production, of funds and wealth, has always been accumulated at someone else's expense. Originally all belonged to the community, belonged to all alike.

A human right is something one may legally or morally claim, is the state of being entitled to a privilege or immunity or authority to act. Human rights are those held to be claimable by any living person, apply to all living people. Every living person is entitled to them.

So ownership of land and means of production, of funds and wealth, rightfully belongs to the community, belongs to all alike, is a human right. Those who have accumulated ownership rights have only possession, which means they can use and apply ownership rights but may do so only on behalf of, and for the benefit of, the community and that they are accountable to the community for the way in which they do so.

Hence we have the use of possessions as long as we use them to provide a good living for our family, and beyond that for the benefit of the community, of others less able or fortunate. For the benefit of the community around us and then for the benefit of communities abroad.

But we may only support those who themselves genuinely support our benevolent ideals and principles and their application and who themselves live and act accordingly, who behave humanely.

Ownership means control, means deciding policy. And democratic deciding of policy, that is democratic control, ensures that it is producers, customers and the community as a whole who benefit.

Whoever takes policy decisions, deciding what has to be done and what is to be achieved, controls. It is grass-roots producers, customers and community members who must take policy decisions, who must decide what has to be done and what has to be achieved.

What is at stake is ownership of the means of production, of an independent source of income. Also at stake is freedom from exploitation and from oppression through need.


{1}     Ownership and Deciding Policy: Companies, Shareholders, Directors and Community
Manfred Davidmann
{2}   Co-operatives and Co-operation: Causes of Failure, Guidelines for Success
Manfred Davidmann

Relevant Current and Associated Works

Other relevant current and associated reports by Manfred Davidmann:
Title   Description
Ownership and Deciding Policy: Companies, Shareholders, Directors and Community   A short statement which describes the system by which a company's majority shareholders decide policy and control the company.
Ownership and Limited Liability   Discusses different types of enterprises and the extent to which owners are responsible for repaying the debts of their enterprise. Also discussed are disadvantages, difficulties and abuses associated with the system of Limited Liability, and their implications for customers, suppliers and employees.
Community and Public Ownership   This report objectively evaluates community ownership and reviews the reasons both for nationalising and for privatising. Performance, control and accountability of community-owned enterprises and industries are discussed. Points made are illustrated by a number of striking case-studies.
Creating, Patenting and Marketing of New Forms of Life     Evaluates problems in genetic manipulation, and consequences of private ownership of new life-forms by multinationals. Lists conclusions and recommendations about man-made forms of life, their ownership and patenting, about improving the trend of events.
Exporting and Importing of Employment and Unemployment   Discusses exporting and importing of employment and unemployment, underlying principles, effect of trade, how to reduce unemployment, social costs of unemployment, community objectives, support for enterprises, socially irresponsible enterprise behaviour.
Co-operatives and Co-operation: Causes of Failure, Guidelines for Success   Based on eight studies of co-operatives and mutual societies, the report's conclusions and recommendations cover fundamental and practical problems of co-ops and mutual societies, of members, of direction, of management and control. There are extensive sections on Style of Management, decision-taking, management motivation and performance, on General Management principles and their application in practice.
John Lewis Partnership PLC   John Lewis Partnership (23 department stores, 112 supermarkets) is successful and expanding. A good profit-sharing scheme is combined with open management. This study looks at profitability, at extent of service to partners, and at style of management.
What People are Struggling Against: How Society is Organised for Controlling and Exploiting People   Report of study undertaken to find out why people have to struggle throughout their adult lives, in all countries, organisations and levels, to maintain and improve their standard of living and quality of life. Reviews what people are struggling against.
The Trustee Savings Bank Give-Away   When this bank was privatised, the buyers received ownership of the bank and also the money they bought it with. This study describes and discusses what happened, including the fragile ownership rights of ordinary people to their accumulated savings.
Kibbutzim   Kibbutzim are successful co-operative communities now experiencing both practical and ideological problems. So the study reviews what is taking place to find reasons for success and causes of problems.

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Copyright    ©    2002    Manfred Davidmann
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23/01/02 Work Completed
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