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Financing Planet Management: Sovereignty, World Order and the Earth Rights Imperative

By Alanna Hartzok

2nd Edition Printing - January 1995

The author wishes to express her appreciation to the following for their very helpful editorial suggestions: Mason Gaffney, Mary Rose Kaczorowski, Susan Klingelhoefer, Harry Lerner, Lisinka Ulatowska.

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"We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth's resources, the land and all its riches, and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These monopolistic positions are kept by a handful of men who are maintained virtually with- out taxation . . . we are yielding up sovereignty."

- Agnes de Mille (1905-1993)


"Heaven has its reasons, Earth has its resources, Man has his political order, thus forming with the first two a triad. But he would err if he failed to respect the ground rules of this triad and infringed on the other two."
- Xun Quang Xunzi, 3rd c. BC
Defining the parameters of sovereignty is a key component of the world order dialogue as it struggles to reach consensus regarding the boundaries and prerogatives of power.

Sovereignty is the status of a person or group of persons having supreme and independent political authority. In dealing with the concept of sovereignty, we are dealing with the reality of power. It is a power over territory, over land and water, oil and minerals, as well as those life forms which have miraculously emerged out of the mud of the earth.

The kings and queens of Europe, Africa, and Asia were sovereigns. They reigned supreme and were thought to be divine. They descended from those having the strongest might and force to prevail over territory. The larger and richer the territory they could hold under their power and authority, the higher their status. They were both feared and courted by other humans.

These were the dominators who ruled the land and made the rules. Their rules became law. Their territorial law was that of "dominium" -- the legalization of control over lands originally obtained by conquest and plunder. All real estate was the royal estate. Might made right, as the rules of power became the laws of the land.

Peter Hansen, executive director of the Independet Commission on Global Governance, has stated that the "United Nations cannot by the nature of things, have the formal attributes of sovereignty, which has been defined around a territory, around a (specific) population, because centralized control of a sovereign body with a given territory and population, is not the same thing as a sovereign U.N. To assume that it would be is not a very meaningful way, in my opinion, to define the subject." -- World Peace News, November 1993

But it seems to me that the U.N. has in fact been defined around a given territory, that territory being the planet as a whole, as well as a specific population, which is all the planet's people. The issue here is not that of populations and boundary lines, but of the demarcation of power and control over the earth that is the foremost "formal attribute of sovereignty" to be debated.

To speak of enforceable world law is to speak of world power. A world legislature would have the power to make the laws of the land and to make the rules for the territory of the earth. And this is what concerns me, because we have not yet discussed the rules of territorial control and ownership in sufficient detail.

Consider these realities:

    Fact:A U.N. study of 83 countries showed that less than 5% of rural landowners control three-quarters of the land.

    Fact: The most pressing cause of the abject poverty which millions of people in the world endure is that a mere 2.5% of landowners with more than 100 hectares control nearly three-quarters of all the land in the world, with the top 0.23% controlling over half. (Susan George, How the Other Half Dies, Penguin Books,1976, p.24)

    Fact: At best, a generous interpretation would suggest that about 3% of the population owns 95% of the privately held land in the U.S. (Peter Meyer, Land Rush-A Survey of America's Land - Who Owns It, Who Controls It, How Much Is Left; Harpers Magazine, Jan.l979)

    Fact: According to a 1985 government report, 2% of landowners hold 60% of the arable land in Brazil while close to 70% of rural households have little or none. Just 342 farm properties in Brazil cover 183,397 square miles--an area larger than California. (Worldwatch Oct. l988)

    Before a global authority, be it a reformed United Nations or a federal world government, can be trusted to wield power benignly, the problem of the current undemocratic control of the earth must be addressed. Innumerable battles and wars have been fought, and many are currently in progress, over territorial control. The fair and peaceful resolution of such conflicts requires a deep consideration of ethical principles regarding land tenure.

    Dr. I.G. Patel, Independent Commission on Global Governance member, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and former director of the London School of Economics stated that "We cannot talk (sensibly) about what kind of global government we want until (1) agreement is reached on how to deal with the causes of international problems and (2) if we are going to have governance or government we will have to do something about poverty." --World Peace News, Nov. l993

    Dr. Patel is correct in his perception that the world order movement has not dealt sufficiently with these issues. While there is a fair amount of unanimity regarding the basic outline of a democratic global political structure, i.e., the need for a democratically elected legislature, a world judiciary to interpret and apply world laws, and an executive to administer and enforce the laws, there has not yet been sufficient thought applied to the consideration of root causes of poverty and international conflict.

    The problem is that democracy has not "grounded" itself. We have not yet extended democratic principles down to the ownership and control of the earth. Democratic government as presently constituted, and democratic world government as currently proposed, ungrounded and unembedded in equal rights to the earth, cannot create the world of peace and justice that we seek.


    To fully grasp the nature of the severe limitations in the current ideology of the world government movement, it is necessary to follow the thread of the democratic ideal back to its fundamental tenets. Pondering the problem of persistent poverty within a democratic system of government, Richard Noyes, New Hampshire State Representative and editor of the book entitled, Now the Synthesis: Capitalism, Socialism, and the New Social Contract, identifies the current land tenure system as "the one great imperfection, the snag on which freedom catches."

    Noyes shows us that the "Age of Reason gave us a thesis with flaws." John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government, the political bible of the founding fathers, held that "The great and chief end of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government is the preservation of their property." The central understanding was that only through the guarantee of property rights, one's own body included, could the individual really be free.

    In further defining property rights, Locke stated that "every man has a `property' in his own `person"', so that anything a man has "removed from the common state," anything with which he has "mixed his own labor," is rightfully his own. The securing of this right was to be the main duty of a democratic government.

    Locke a