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Dec 12, 2009

Is the government truly the ‘paramount’ owner of land in Australia?

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This is a guest post by Alex Davidson reprinted with his permission from the original on Agmates, Peter Spencer support group.

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is no force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist." - John Adams.

By Alex Davidson.

I often hear my betters sagely telling me that I don’t really have a leg to stand on over concerns that the government is taking something that doesn’t belong to it when it imposes controls upon the use of private land, because, they say, the government is really the ‘paramount owner’ of all land in Australia, and it is only through the government’s good grace that any of us have any ownership rights at all.

When I first came across this idea some years ago, I was quite shocked. So that means we are living in some sort of defacto communist society, not one based upon private property rights and freedom, as I had naively assumed?

Since then I have come to the conclusion that the whole concept of the government as paramount owner is a lot like an urban myth, repeated over and over again by collectivists, environmental fundamentalists, some judges, and the big government crowd, in the hope that it will eventually stick and be accepted as common law, if it isn’t already.

What I haven’t found is a reasoned argument to support it. Instead, it appears that the first claims of Australian governments to ‘own’ land in Australia are merely that – claims – and do not withstand the true test of ownership as arising from homesteading or contractual exchange. (For more on this point, see here, here, and here.)

Furthermore, whenever I go to publications on Australian property law, I invariably find they are written by authors who seem very sympathetic to the ideas of Marx & Proudhon in regard to property. Where are those who argue that property and ownership do not arise from government, and that taking property without consent is theft?

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