‘How can one own stars?’ [asked the little prince]
‘Whose are they?’ the businessman asked peevishly.
‘I don’t know. They don’t belong to anyone.’
‘In which case they are mine, because I was the first person to
think of it.’
‘Is that sufficient?’
‘Of course it is. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to no one, it is yours. When you are the first to have an idea, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. And I own the stars because nobody else before me thought of owning them.’
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Since the Enclosure Acts, access to land has been the biggest obstacle for anyone who has wanted to live subsistently, and it remains so for anyone who dreams of creating a localised gift economy. Every inch of the land we were born out of is now owned by someone or something, and the combination of that cultural creation with the subsequent land prices and planning permission constraints has led us to a scenario where the human has been forced out of her natural habitat. Are we less worthy than a woodpecker or an otter to live freely upon the land?
One of the most significant impacts of this is the fact that the overwhelming majority of people now need to take out large mortgages in inherently unsustainable cities where they have little opportunity to have control over their own lives, instead being forced to work in the wage economy so that they may pay back their mortgage lenders the money that the latter created out of thin air to begin with. In effect, making the rich financially richer and the poor more enslaved. The consequences of the privatisation of our land on our freedoms and our ability to live in a truly sustainable manner are grossly underestimated.
Land reform, as we’ve seen in chapter four, is crucial to the movement towards a moneyless economy. The corporatocracy, that merging of corporate and political powers (I was once told that politicians and corporations are not actually in bed together – they are, in fact, the same people!), will not relinquish control over the land easily. The land was taken off us in order to force us into the industrial and wage economies, after all. Until such reforms happen one way or another, there are plenty of transitional strategies we can employ to enable those of us who do want to live off the land in a subsistence, non-monetary, economy to do so, or at the very least give ourselves access to soil so that we can be as self-reliant for food and our other needs as possible. The good news is that many people and organisations have already pioneered these transitional strategies, meaning you just have to decide what path best suits you and then pursue it with determination.
In the course of this chapter, I aim to provide you with a range of strategies that could offer you the potential to access the land in a way that will help you live outside of the monetary economy to some degree, regardless of whether you live in the city or eventually aspire to get back to the land.