The End of Real Estate

By: jgraf

Recent financial market discord in the realty sector is a symptom that profiteering and speculation leads to a disturbing malaise in the relationship between the human community and land.
Land is actually priceless. It cannot be owned any more that can the starlight that radiates down on us. Neither can a nation own land. The purpose of nations and states and provinces has come and gone. At this juncture in time, as ecological crises cross all notion of boundaries, it becomes evident that true nation-hood must comprise eco-zones - or, rather, the world as one nation and its eco-zones as provinces.

The origin of the term “real estate” hints that the modern land transaction game has little authentic bearing as a social institution. When the term was first coined, the notion to assert that it was “real” arose because, in fact, it had no basis in reality. After all, who ever said one could actually buy land, buy and sell portions of the Earth that, in essence, belong to all humanity, as well as all living beings upon the planet!
It only takes a few moments of sitting in stillness with the question of private land ownership to realize that the concept of land as a commodity is a fabrication, and today’s real estate business has become a dilemma entailing an extensive web of karmic bondage.
Earth Vision holds that to the degree spiritual evolution proceeds on the planet humanity comes to embrace alternative relationships with the land. Further, any acts of profiteering from land transaction entail a transgression against the whole of the living community on a moral level. When, for example, both parents of a young family are required to work full time for endless years to sustain adequate shelter, the children of the world suffer.
Land allocation rendered on any basis other than what is best for the whole of a given ecosystem can only degrade both natural and social systems.

The modern house as existential burden

The typical modern North American dwelling has become excessive and unwieldy, and not only unduly impacts the environment, but requires high initial investment, large cash infusions to sustain and furnish, and endless attention to maintain. Consider for a moment, how the modern “home” of several thousand square feet is actually large enough to house 12-16 people, given that one or two hundred square feet is more than enough for an individual.
When the time comes around to renew the roofing, or painting, or any of a roster of maintenance tasks, the bills are high. Imagine the tiny maintenance costs of a minimal 200 square foot home? Further, once one owns a large house, the natural consequence that follows is to fill it with “stuff” - the environmentally irresponsible raison d’etre of modern society. Shop ‘til the Earth drops. Fill your big space with stuff, and spend the rest of your days paying it off (or else exploiting others to do so for you).
And so the real estate game deepens, the distraction of the masses from a genuine lifestyle.

What then, are the alternatives? In what ways can humanity enter into a new and viable relationship with the land? Earth Vision points toward the illuminating vision of Rudolf Steiner’s Three-fold Social Order for answers, and proposes the following approaches to resolve the issue of private land speculation. They are put forward as a starting point, while inviting input from any interested parties to add to the process, which, in turn, can help avert impending financial and spiritual demise.

Authentic forms of relationship with land

- Non-profit, or not-for-profit motivations

- Individual or group stewardship, versus notions of private property

- sustainable communities

- the return of north-south migration tracts for bison herds upon the prairies (See “The Return of Bison and Wolf”).

- the re-allocation of political/nation/state/provincial boundaries, so that the real boundaries, those of the eco-systems, will prevail - e.g., the Hardwood Forest, the Great Lakes, the Boreal Forest, the Great Plains, etc.

- placing emphasis of ownership solely on assets such as buildings, while holding an attitude of tenancy toward the land itself.

- The one room cabin concept

- One room on wheels, a small mobile home

- ? (you are invited to expand on this theme.)

It should be noted, when reviewing the above concepts of land relationship, that none of the modalities entails a notion of ownership. Because of this, it becomes possible for the status of relationship to land to evolve into a state of custodial-ship, and to comprise qualities of reverence, gratitude, and a sense of open-ness to the needs of the Earth itself. What does a particular area of land require from the human community to sustain and enhance itself? What other species co-habit, and how can that co-existence be optimized?
A few individuals down through time, aware of the illegitimacy of profiteering from land transactions, and recognizing their relationship with the Earth as one of tenancy, not ownership, have sold their property on the basis of its buildings and improvements only. The people on the receiving end of the transaction were able to acquire homes at significantly reduced costs. It is hoped that these people will continue to pass that property on via the same basis. Other individuals of a similar vein include those who have willed their land as conservation tracts or wilderness preserve.

Toward a New Relationship with the Land

Riding on the notion of releasing land ownership, the Earth Vision project proposes Steiner’s Three-fold Social Order as a model of deconstruction.
In a fully functional society, which we have no such models on the planet at this time - although some groups within nations appear to be at least experimenting with the ideal - how would a nation that has undergone social renewal of the Three-folding process function?
Some points:

Profiteering from land transactions degrades the nature-human relationship and the social fabric.

Free access to land is important in the economic sphere (as well as the residential sphere, of course). But when free access is perpetuated, once the productive purpose has ended, it is not appropriate.

This is not socialism, per se, in the sense of transferring means of production to common ownership. As Steiner indicates: “Instead of common ownership of the means of production, a circulation of the means of production will come about within the social organization, so that these continually become available to the people whose individual capacities can render them of greatest possible use to the whole community.”

Property ceases to be what it has been up until now. And it does not revert to an old, outdated form, such as common ownership represents, but is led forward to become something wholly new. Property is made more fluid, entering the flow of social relationships and structures. The individual can no longer manage it in his own interest to the detriment of the general interest; but nor can the general community manage it bureaucratically to the individual’s detriment. Instead, suitable individuals will gain access to it, and use it to serve the community.

Of course, this social renewal also includes the cultivation of spiritual and creative faculties, faculties that are largely over-whelmed at this time by our materialistic focus. For example, economic theorists often cite profit motivation as a necessary driving force in the economic realm of society. However, once an individual discovers the greater profit that is born out of his/her individual spiritual and creative process - a form of wealth that moves into the world as a beneficial resource for the well-being of the community, or overall social organism - material profit as a motivation, in the mind of an evolved individual, becomes redundant.

Finally, a quote from Vision and Action for Another World – Powerful Ideas and Inspiring Practical Approaches, ed. Ulrich Roesch:

“Land belongs to everyone, though it is utilized by individuals. In this sense, individual ‘ownership’ of land can only refer to the right of utilization. As long as such individual utilization continues unchanged, there is no need for societal action. Society only has to ensure that a new user can step into the rights of the previous user, when the previous user quits. In such a system, the right of land utilization would change hands only by assignment, not by sale. In this way, land ‘ownership’ would be brought back into circulation within the social system.. Society would not manage the land; it would only ensure that it is available to (socially productive) individuals for utilization, and also that such utilization is not made impossible because of prohibitive pricing.
Instead of a purchase price paid to the previous owner, society could impose a social compensation payment for any ongoing utilization of land. This is justified because the use of land by one individual excludes everyone else from using the same plot. Communal income accruing from the compensation payments would be used to benefit all people in the respective region of that part of the world. Such compensation payments do not constitute interest on capital, since no sale, and thus no capital transfer, has taken place. Their quantification would not be determined by supply and demand but, by social considerations. For instance, society can adjust the amount of payment so as to further ecological agriculture, or some other societal goal.”

The reader is invited to entertain further resolutions to the land allocation issue. Feel free to send responses via email to the author, or to enter them on the EV blog that is accessible on the Earth Vision site -

Think what you can do with your life, now that you have freed up so much time, as well as space on your agenda, due to a pragmatic resolution to the question of shelter. . . .

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J Graf is the coordinator of Earth Vision and Insight21 - doorways for the 21st Century - at and

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