Private Property or Sustainability? You Must Choose!

Private Property and Sustainability

The two are mutually exclusive. We cannot have private ownership AND Sustainable Development.

“WHAT?! Are you crazy?!” scream most agriculturalists I know. “Private ownership underpins sustainable development!” And that is true in the conventional sense of the words. But we are not dealing with our own definition of sustainable.

Private property ownership forms the firm foundation for free markets and capitalism. It is based upon individual freedom and responsibility.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development spring from the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission (1983-87), the UN’s Rio Earth Summit (1992) and the UN’s Millennium Declaration (2000). They are based upon centralized control and top-down decision-making.

It is vital that productive people everywhere understand that private property and Sustainability cannot co-exist. Any efforts to advance our own definitions are in vain. The more we try to claim that lost ground, the worse it gets for us.


A Google search of the word reveals how hopeless our own efforts to define it are. Wikipedia is first on the results page. (The other results are worth a look, too, if you need further proof of the futility of our efforts.)

The first thing Wiki says about sustainability:

In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture. Sustainability science is the study of sustainable development and environmental science.

It gets better:

Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganising living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture)…

Under the “Principles and Concepts” heading, we see:

The United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development and environmental protection. The Circles of Sustainability approach distinguishes the four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability. This in accord with the United Nations Agenda 21, which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.

The philosophical and analytic framework of sustainability draws on and connects with many different disciplines and fields; in recent years an area that has come to be called sustainability science has emerged.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development, aka Agenda 21, while essentially fertilized at the Stockholm Conference (I encourage a careful read of the 26 principles!) in 1972, was birthed in 1992 at the UN’s “Earth Summit” at Rio de Janeiro.

Sustainable Development is Maurice Strong’s plan to advance “the environment” through local governments all over the globe. Local governments, especially if they sign up as dues-paying members of ICLEI (now called Local Governments for Sustainability), are encouraged to limit what people do on their own property for supposed benefits to the environment.

In the name of nebulous, indefinable concepts such as biodiversity, sustainability, ecosystems, social justice and environment (amongst many others), a small group of people make centralized decisions about what can and cannot be done on an individual’s property.

Inextricably intertwined in the United Nation's Sustainable Development creation is the concept of Triple Bottom Line.  The average person does not realize, though, that society and environment are already accounted for within a free-market economic system.

Inextricably intertwined in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development creation is the concept of Triple Bottom Line. The average person does not realize, though, that society and environment are already accounted for within a free-market economic system.

At its core, Sustainable Development is an aggressive (albeit very clever) assault on private property.

In Defense of Private Property

Private property is core to a free and prosperous, market-based economy. Peruvian Economist, Hernando de Soto, submits that trade will occur in the absence of private property ownership, but capital development cannot.

When no individual owns property, the natural incentive is to take as much as one can as quickly as possible without investing in the future quality or productivity of that property.

If property is owned by individuals, however, incentive exists (in the absence of government welfare or bailouts) to care for the property for both short- and long-term gains, essentially ensuring that the property can be handed down through generations. In my own world, and in talking to many agriculturalists, this is the classic definition of “sustainable.”

Sanction of the Victim

Many companies and industry organizations have endorsed the UN’s programs and verbiage in an attempt to demonstrate to detractors that they are good and that they do not harm the environment. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) provides a prime example of private entities, desperate to demonstrate their goodness, voluntarily joining what I would call an extortion group.  I’ll focus here on just one example.

Monsanto joined WBCSD in January 2013. Monsanto’s products allow farmers to be more efficient. By its very nature, efficiency is good for the environment. Efficiency means we produce more food with fewer inputs. Were that not the case, farmers would not voluntarily purchase those products.

Were it not for a profit motive, farmers would have no incentive to become more efficient. Were it not for private property and the surety that we personally will benefit from excellent care of and improvements to our land, no incentive for excellent care or improvements would exist.

The sad irony is that Monsanto is still hated by the people who originally hated them, but now formerly ardent supporters of the company have a basis for criticism.

Monsanto flourished because of a profit motive. They had to develop good products that improved productivity and profitability for their customers in order to be profitable themselves. The natural side benefits of efficiency gains are cleaner, greener surroundings and more time for community involvement.

But in distancing themselves from noble profit-seeking to a focus on “society and environment,” Monsanto has entered the world of make-believe, acting upon the communications department’s theory that perception trumps reality.

The second and perhaps ultimate irony is that, in fear of being beheaded by the King (some future UN-created international rules), Monsanto has compliantly cut off its own head. The UN would never have had the power to control Monsanto, but Monsanto has voluntarily submitted. This is what author Ayn Rand called the sanction of the victim.


Capitalism (necessarily based upon property ownership) improves the world around us. One need only travel to a few choice countries in the world to gain first-hand evidence of this fact.

Agriculturalists – indeed, all productive people — need to stop playing on the game board created by people out to destroy us. We need to focus all of our energies and resources on re-establishing the sanctity of private property and on proudly promoting the concepts of – and positive benefits of – capitalism and the profit motive.

It’s the only path that will yield true sustainability for ourselves, our children and their children’s children.


I love ag.  I fervently hope and pray that good people will come together to once again advance the fundamental principles that allow us to engage in abundant agricultural production which, in turn, frees people up for other pursuits such as art, music, sport and entertainment.


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