The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

The proletariat have the right to roam the countryside.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/24/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,678 times Debate No: 9257
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (4)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

Comrades living in the capitalist West will be all too familiar with the many laws that the decadent ruling classes have introduced to preserve their privileged positions in society - often oppressing the masses by denying them their birth rights as citizens in the process.

One example of this type of perverse legislation is the assumption in law that the landed gentry, parasitic aristocrats, fat-cat farmers and other filthy-rich property owners have the right to "sole enjoyment" of their land and are, therefore, entitled to exclude the general public from it.

Clearly, these laws date back to feudal times and have no place in the modern, democratic socialist societies that the more enlightened amongst us hope will soon replace the corrupt and discredited capitalist regimes of Western Europe and North America.

On this issue, we must follow the example of former Soviet bloc states in Eastern Europe, where the interests of the people continue to take precedence over the vested interests of the Bourgeoisie.

For example, my grandmother-in-law owns several hundred acres of the forest that overlooks the village in Slovakia where she lives. Although I'm sure she has sufficient appreciation of the concept of noblesse oblige not to want to deprive her fellow citizens from enjoying her land, she is not, in any case, legally able to do so. Therefore, anybody is at perfect liberty to wander across her land, which they do in their droves during the early mornings of the warmer months when they pick wild mushrooms to cook with scrambled eggs for their breakfasts. Provided they cause no damage, they are committing no offence and this is the way it should be.

Clearly, certain restrictions to access land should be made, for example to prevent people entering sheep farmers' fields during the lambing season, but the default ruling should be that the proletariat have the right to roam the countryside.

Thank you.
RoyLatham

Con

1. Like most debates on this site, the first task is guess what the resolution is. The literal statement offered makes no sense, because using any reasonable definitions the proletariat is already allowed to roam the countryside. I'll guess that the resolution is "In the countryside, the law should allow trespassing, with certain exceptions at the discretion of the government." Where "in modern law trespass is an unauthorized entry upon land," http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com... Under the resolution, the property owner does not authorize entry, rather the government usurps the rights of the owner and authorizes entry.

2. Pro offers the new right to trespass only to the proletariat, "The class of industrial wage earners who, possessing neither capital nor production means, must earn their living by selling their labor." http://www.answers.com... So, for example, farmers, not being industrial wage earners, would not have the new right to trespass. Office workers on holiday, not being industrial workers, would be denied equal rights. I'll let Pro explain the logic behind that before I respond. For now, I'll assume it is just part of the fog of dopiness around the resolution.

3. Let's suppose that Pro's house is in the countryside. His backyard is 10 m x 10 m, but there is a possibility that mushrooms might be growing there. So does the proletariat get to roam Pro's backyard? How about if his backyard is larger? Those with large lands include celebrities of great interest to some people. What mechanism will be used to decide whether or not restrictions are reasonable?

The default, according to Pro, is that access is permissible. So therefore there must be some mechanism by which the public is notified as to what activities are permitted and where they are permitted. That implies that every piece of property that could be reasonably supposed to be "countryside" has to be posted with the permissions and prohibitions. Moreover, the owner cannot make the decision as to what is permitted and what is not. If the owner were permitted to do that he would be acting like an owner, and the point of the resolution is to eliminate an owners rights to determine use of his land. Therefore, it will come down to government bureaucracy, per a "Land Use Office," to make the decision. The owner might want to restrict access because he is very concerned with the nesting environment of the Great Bustard http://en.wikipedia.org... on his property. Should the owner's personal concern take precedence over the public's right to roam? Maybe Great Bustards are universally thought important by government as well, perhaps not. What of preserving the natural environment of Nuttall's locoweed? Is that important enough to restrict access, or will the government allow them to be stomped?

The government is not qualified to make decisions about how much privacy is enough or what is important enough to protect. The simply don't have the knowledge, and taxpayers should not have to pay them to learn. In the real world, the government will make decisions based upon political considerations. That is inevitably unjust.

4. The owner of the property ought to have the rights to collect and sell the mushrooms, rocks, or whatever else is on the property. It is impractical to allow access to the property while enforcing prohibitions on what can be taken from the property. It's like "the proletariat should be allowed to roam through bank vaults, so long as they don't take any money." The same problem exists with respect to damaging the property. Theoretical notions of "so long as they don't" fail in actual practice.

5. Ordinarily, liability laws require that if an owner provides access to his property, the owner is responsible for hazards on the property. With the default being public access, for what is the owner responsible? Will it become the government's job to locate and fix or mark off hazards? Why should taxpayers pay for that? On the other hand, why should the government assume liability for hazards that were previously the responsibility of the owner? If the government now determines access, it would be logical they take full responsibility. to do otherwise would be unfair.

6. Currently owners have the rights to control their property. They paid for the property under the assumption that they would have the rights to it. If government seizes some of those rights, then the government should pay for it. If they don't, it is unfair. If they do, taxpayers are burdened for the sake of a very few roamers. The government already provides parks and other lands.

"Today, a substantial amount of Britain, 10 million acres or about 19 percent, is in public ownership" http://www.caledonia.org.uk... In the US, federal, state and local governments own 37 percent of the land. http://www.ers.usda.gov... There is already plenty of public lands avail for roaming. If the people determine they want more, they should by it and dedicate it to public use, not demand that private citizens maintain parks for public use.

7. One alternative to the resolution is to keep private ownership rights the default, but post exceptions. In rural areas of the US, it's fairly common to put up signs allowing hunters on property. The laws are then written for that specific exception, and resolve all the issues of liability. The owner won't allow access if there is something he is worried about protecting. The owner may voluntarily grant access without compensation, or the government can pay the owner a yearly fee. Some localities buy permanent "development rights" which leave the owner with a subset of his rights in return for a fee.

=================

The resolution would create a bureaucratic mess for determining what private use of land is allowed and not allowed, and the determination would be subject to political abuse. the resolution deprives property owners of rights without just compensation, and it makes private property subject to theft and abuse. A far more reasonable alternative for increasing public access is to carve voluntary and publicly-purchased exceptions to property rights.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

With many thanks to Mr. Latham for his considered rebuttal, I should like to respond as follows:

1 – My opponent has discerned the meaning of the resolution correctly: that is that the default situation should be that the general public should, unless there is a very good reason why not, have free and unfettered access to the countryside, even if the land is privately owned.

2 – I intended the word ‘proletariat' to mean all citizens of all social classes, it is an old-fashioned word not in general use and I admit, therefore, that to employ it in my opening round was ill-advised.

3 – Surely, we would all agree that the countryside should not be the sole preserve of those few privileged people that can either afford to buy country estates or pay exorbitant amounts of money to attend shooting parties, hunt meetings, gymkhanas and other rural pursuits that have traditionally excluded the less well off? Nevertheless, that is the desire of the wealthy elite: such as the landed gentry and the celebrities that my opponent cited. Many of them, including Madonna, Posh Spice, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Claudia Schiffer have bought country homes in England and have sought to prevent other people from using the public rights of way that cross, or even merely come close, to their land.

http://www.independent.co.uk...

In essence, what they are saying to the rest of us is:

"I'm very famous and extremely rich and I have just bought this huge mansion in the countryside and I don't want to look out of the window and see ordinary people like you. That's why I have ordered my minions to block all the public rights of way in the vicinity of my property. What's that? You don't like it? Okay, can you afford the best lawyers money can buy? Can you? No I didn't think so. So there's nothing you can do to stop me is there? Right, now get off my land before I set the dogs on you, you disgusting piece of lower class filth."

That is why the government must step in to protect the rights of the ordinary citizens to enjoy the countryside that, through public subsidies paid to landowners and farmers to protect the environment, we actually pay for through our taxes.

Of course, public access should not be permitted to private gardens (when a backyard becomes open countryside is a mute point, but clearly land that is used for growing crops or grazing animals or is forested or open moorland cannot be described as a garden, indeed anything over ten acres should come under scrutiny).

Also, provisions should be made to protect endangered wildlife, but let's be clear, the people who make the effort to visit the countryside are generally the people that respect it most and are most keen to see it preserved – otherwise they would spend their free time scoffing cheeseburgers in bowling alleys or standing in line for rides at theme parks.

4 – Clearly, the interruption of commercial activities cannot be allowed and the public harvesting of fruit or vegetables or removing livestock from private land would amount to theft. But to try and stop people from picking the wild mushrooms, herbs and fruit that would otherwise go to waste, would be churlish and spiteful.

5 – Country land owners are not above the law. They may own the land but the land still comes under the jurisdiction of the government. That means that the landowner does not have the right to commit criminal offences on his land or to prevent law enforcement officers from entering his property if they suspect him of doing so. For example, in Waco, Texas in 1993 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to serve arrest and search warrants on the landowner, David Koresh. He opened fire on the officers, killing four and injuring sixteen.

http://www.pbs.org...

Some people argue that since the ranch was private property, even though Koresh was suspected of sexually abusing children and of possessing illegal firearms, the ATF had no business to be on his land and deserved what they got. I do not subscribe to this view and believe that private property should not serve as a refuge for suspected criminals.

Similarly, landowners cannot be allowed to deliberately endanger the public by placing traps or other devices on their property that are designed to prevent or deter free access. However, since they are not charging for admission, beyond keeping pathways and tracks free from obstructions, they should not be held liable for ensuring that their land conforms to health and safety regulations.

6 – The Country Landowners Association are up in arms at the prospect of public access to their wealthy members' property and want financial compensation. They trot out the same old hackneyed arguments about how much land is already accessible to the public that my opponent has made.

http://www.countrylife.co.uk...

So a minority of the land is already accessible to the public? So what they are saying is that the majority of it should be the preserve of the wealthy few. Should we extend this logic to the right of citizens to vote? We could go back to the olden days when only the landed gentry and other socially privileged people were allowed to participate in elections and the general population were totally disenfranchised, but I think this would be a backward step.

7 – The example of landowners in the United States granting free access to their land with public liability disclaimers and small fees for those who wish to hunt or fish, is a perfect example of how the countryside should be managed for the benefit of all and should be held up as the example for others to follow. However, those landowners who believe that they have the right to deny the public the enjoyment of the natural beauty of their own country must be legally obliged to allow access to their land.

==============================================================

The implementation of free access to the countryside would be relatively simple and inexpensive yet would benefit everybody who enjoys wildlife and the natural environment. These people are not the thugs, criminals and other undesirables that the landowners seek to portray them as – they are hikers, birdwatchers, families with picnic hampers and other responsible people whose main desire is to see their country's natural beauty preserved, certainly not damaged.

The wealthy landowners who say that the public should be content with the parks and other open areas they already have access to, share the same mentality as their aristocratic forefathers who used to feast upon huge platters of meat and throw the bones to their malnourished servants – it's an insult to us all.

Finally, as far as compensation from the government is concerned, that's fine, just so long as the farmers and landowners demanding it don't mind if the government also withdraws the many billions they pay them each year in public subsidies.

Thank you.
RoyLatham

Con

Pro posed the debate generally, going so far as to cite Slovakia (home of the Great Bustard) as an example of a place where property rights ought to be diminished. However in arguing his case, he cites only the examples of the estates of British aristocracy. That leads to Pro supposing that "land" equates to "parks" or something like a park that has no practical use. It also leads to Pro supposing that we all should hate rich or aristocratic landowners and feel free to take what they have.

Such is not the general case as Pro supposes. America is full of landowners who are neither rich nor aristocratic, and many put their land to practical use. American society is also highly mobile; the correlation between parental wealth and offspring wealth disappears in two generations. The appeal of hating the rich diminishes if you think you or your children can become rich. In parts of the world other than the US and the UK there is even less land that fits Pro's paradigm of idle parkland. People in many places put their land to use to make a living, and so protecting their property relates directly to their survival.

Whether one hates the rich or not, property rights are still fundamental and should not be casually abridged as the resolution proposes. Pro's sole justification is that the rich have something we want, therefore we ought to simply take it. Human rights ought not be doled out and withdrawn according to a caste system. That's profoundly unfair.

1, 2. Pro agrees upon the resolution and agrees that "proletariat" was misused in the original statement of the resolution. I'm not sure if misusing "proletariat" is in the class of spelling errors or what it is, but it's something.

3. Pro claims, "Surely, we would all agree that the countryside should not be the sole preserve of those few privileged people that can either afford to buy country estates or pay exorbitant amounts of money to attend shooting parties, hunt meetings, gymkhanas and other rural pursuits that have traditionally excluded the less well off?" Hah! In the U.S. it's not the rich who hunt, fish, and generally romp around outdoors, it is what Pro would call the proletariat. It's the elite liberal politicians who feel compelled to buy unnaturally sharp hunting costumes to provide photo opportunities pretending they are like the average person.

In any case, I agree everyone should have access to the countryside. If Britain has too few parks, then the government ought to legally acquire some of those aristocratic estates and make parks out of them. Seizing property on grounds of class warfare is a violation of rights and flatly dishonest. If the government can seize the property of an upper class, they are then empowered to seize your property as well. Pro suggests that Eastern bloc countries would eagerly greet a return of Big Brother asserting dominance over private property. I don't believe it. Those people remember what Big Brother did the last time he was in charge.

4. I claimed that government was not in a position to decide what was valuable on a piece of property, nor could they protect the property from damage. Pro responded it was not a problem because trespassers can be uniformly counted upon to know what is valuable and uphold those values, and moreover none of the new trespassers would want to steal anything. In some places that is probably true. So places have relatively little that can be damaged and locals who frequent them can be counted upon for honesty. However, the resolution is a worldwide presumption to that effect, and it is clearly unjustified. The presumption should be against trespassing, with exceptions proved case by case.

5. I claimed that a presumption in favor of legal trespass muddled the responsibility for keeping the property safe. Pro essentially passed over the issue, asserting it wouldn't be a problem. Quite possible the English countryside is safe, so it isn't a major issue there. However, the world is full of very hazardous places. It's full of ravines, rock slides, avalanche zones, flash flood zones, and all manner of hazards. The problem is pretty well solved when the presumption is that property is off limits. However, when that presumption is reversed, the government then gets the burden of marking and policing all the hazards. That's an unwarranted, taxpayer burden.

6. I argued that people paid for the property they owned, and that if the public wants to do something with it they should pay for it. Being feudal land baron in England is not as easy as it used to be, so there are many estates up for sale. The Panmure Estate is an example.http://www.prnewswire.co.uk.... Moreover, with the finances being difficult as they are, public access rights could be purchased. I see nothing in Pro's rebuttal other than "there is no need to pay for it, because we can steal it." That is unethical.

7. I noted that there are proven mechanisms by with property rights can be maintained, but access granted on a case by case basis taking into account the considerations I have pointed out. Pro merely asserts that there a public right to take property without compensation, whether there are reasonable alternatives or not.

Pro argues that compensation for land use is reasonable provided that land subsidies are removed. I agree completely. Therefore Pro agrees that the resolution fails.

===============

This debate is over property rights. Pro supposes that landowners having less than ten acres should maintain property rights, but those owning over ten acres should not have property rights. This is fundamental inequality that should not be tolerated. People who own land are best equipped to know its virtues and liabilities, not the government. Pro offers a idyllic picture of English country estates rules by resident aristocracy. That's not a reliable model even for the UK, and it is certainly not a valid paradigm for the rest of the world.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
brian_eggleston

Pro

First of all, I should like to clarify that the right of the population to enjoy the natural beauty in no way amounts to taking from the rich to give to the poor as my opponent implies. Neither is it an attack on the rich, or any other landowners. All that is being required of those in society privileged enough to own open countryside is to adopt a sense of noblesse oblige and share their good fortune with other people by allowing them reasonable access to their land. It must be recognised that many landowners already do this and they should be duly congratulated – it is the selfish, petty-minded people who cling to the belief that being wealthy entitles them to deprive ordinary people of the simple pleasures that walk in the countryside provides that need to be tackled.

It is not about hating the rich, but rich people who behave so selfishly are hated, and deservedly so.

My opponent went on to argue that the presumption should be that somebody seeking to access private land are doing so for nefarious purposes, even though this is very rarely the case. At best, this is punishing the many for the crimes of the few and, at worst, it is a draconian repression of the free movement of the masses only justified by the most spurious of arguments. If someone commits a crime on private land they should be punished but you cannot, in a free country, restrict the activities of the populace on the basis that they might abuse their freedom. What's next, nobody except those who can afford to employ government-approved chauffeurs should be allowed to drive just in case they decide to exceed the speed limit?

My opponent also used emotive words to evoke images of ordinary people "taking" and even "stealing" private land. This is not what is being suggested at all, only that the public should be allowed free access the countryside – property owners will still be able to buy and sell land without let or hindrance.

Finally, I realise that landowners in America and in the UK and in the rest of the world have very different backgrounds and, thankfully, the ‘braying toffs' that infest the rural shires of England are an anachronism outside this country. That said, the same principles of public access apply worldwide and unless a landowner can give a very good, practical reason why his property should be off-limits, the people should be allowed to exercise their right to roam the countryside.

Thank you.
RoyLatham

Con

Pro claims, "First of all, I should like to clarify that the right of the population to enjoy the natural beauty in no way amounts to taking from the rich to give to the poor as my opponent implies." Someone, whether they are rich or poor, buys a piece of property and buying the property means that the owner has certain rights related to the space. In fact there is nothing to the ownership other than rights -- the property cannot be carried away, eaten, consumed, or in anyway used other than through the rights conveyed by ownership. So when the government removes some rights from the property without compensation to the owner, that is theft. Pro justifies the theft by claiming that property owners are rich, but that is not generally the case, and it is theft whether the owner is rich or not.

Pro argued that nothing is stolen because, "property owners will still be able to buy and sell land without let or hindrance." Because the land has no value beyond rights of use, taking away rights removes value. Government can, and does, sterilize land through regulations that prevent any use whatsoever. A wetlands preservation law in the US rendered certain land completely valueless by requiring that it could not be touched. Owners could buy and sell it, but it was worthless. Many ended up donating it to a charity to escape the taxes that were nonetheless imposed. It was 100% theft without compensation. The current resolution does not render land valueless, but it just as clearly diminishes the value by diminishing the rights to control use.

I suggested that in many cases, the government could purchase public rights of access for a modest fee. Pro did not respond. Why should one pay for something that can be stolen? And it is to be stolen from the "hateful" people who own ten acres or more, so no problem. In the US in some places ten acres can be purchased for $3000. Clearly rich land barons who deserve punishment?

In the US, a new Supreme Court justice was nominated recently. The oath for justices is that they must provide equal justice to the rich and poor. This is required for a just society. Pro proposes that those owning more than ten acres of land ought to have fewer property rights than those holding less than ten acres. This is unacceptable.

Pro says, "All that is being required of those in society privileged enough to own open countryside is to adopt a sense of noblesse oblige and share their good fortune with other people by allowing them reasonable access to their land." That concept has no bounds. I hear that Pro has a very nice living room. So there should be public access to it. All that is being required of those in society privileged enough to own nice living rooms is to adopt a sense of noblesse oblige and share their good fortune with other people by allowing them reasonable access to their living rooms. If Pro has some objection, he can take his case to the Office of Nice Room Access and plead it before the government bureaucrats who are in control. Surely they will come up with an equitable compromise ... right?

"It is not about hating the rich, but rich people who behave so selfishly are hated, and deservedly so." Pro contradicts himself within a single sentence. It's not about hating the rich, but of course we should hate the rich and therefore set about stealing from them. Perhaps Pro believes that it's a better justification if we don't hate the rich for having money, but rather hate them for keeping it. That is not a better justification. It's hatred motivated by greed.

Pro goes on, "My opponent went on to argue that the presumption should be that somebody seeking to access private land are doing so for nefarious purposes, even though this is very rarely the case. At best, this is punishing the many for the crimes of the few and, at worst, it is a draconian repression of the free movement of the masses only justified by the most spurious of arguments." Banks have vaults to protect the money they store. But wait, very few people are bank robbers. The vaults keep the masses of people who might enjoy looking at the money from enjoying it just out of fear of some rare case of nefarious action. So therefore bank vaults are a draconian repression of the freedom of the masses. Got that? It's nonsense, of course.

People who own something get to decide what they want to do to protect it. Many landowners decide there is nothing particular to protect, so they allow public access. Others worry about their privacy, the pristine nature of the land, special things on the land, or hidden hazards that pose liability problems. It's the owner's right and responsibility to resolve those questions. I challenged that the government does not have the facts to make those decisions and that taxpayers should not be paying for any such unnecessary government function. Pro did not respond to either challenge, just pronouncing them non-problems.

Pro concedes, "the ‘braying toffs' that infest the rural shires of England are an anachronism outside this country." I'm not sure if we have braying toffs or not. I suspect that we have some braying toffs out there somewhere, but I'd have to research it. My point however, is that the resolution assumes a paradigm in which rich people own park-like land of little practical use, and that there is a gentile populace has no desire for anything but an occasional stroll across it. That model is nonsense, and I gave the reasons and examples, which Pro just ignored.

I gave the solution to the acute problem in the English countryside. If the people want more parks, they should buy and maintain some of the country estates. Many are for sale, so there is no problem with supply. A cheaper solution is to by public rights to limited access at fair value. If the lands are getting some government subsidy, get rid of the subsidy and offer to buy access instead. This allows a deal for liability and limits to access to be crafted case-by-case and it preserves the owners property rights.

Pro did not argue that my method was unfair or unworkable. He apparently thinks there is no need to buy anything that can be stolen. Rights are real things, so, yes, they can be stolen.

Pro's case is built upon an alleged right to roam the countryside. No such right exists, nor has it existed since times of nomadic society. Property rights do exist, and have existed for many centuries. Those rights exist for good reasons. They are among the important rights of individuals. Abolishing them puts the control in the sole possession of government.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
A good debate. Property rights are so out-of-favor these days that I appreciate the opportunity to argue the topic. Since my spelling tends to go astray quite regularly, I tend to think it unimportant.
Posted by brian_eggleston 7 years ago
brian_eggleston
Oh, also apologies for the somewhat erratic final post - I only had no time to proof read it prior to posting.
Posted by brian_eggleston 7 years ago
brian_eggleston
Thanks for a very thought provoking and well-argued debate, as always, Mr. Latham. I must confess your argument about sharing my living room made me laugh out loud and was a very good point, well made - after all, where do you draw the line when it comes to private property?
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 7 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
I think the right person stepped up!
Posted by Xer 7 years ago
Xer
Wow. That was complete and utter pwnage.
Posted by brian_eggleston 7 years ago
brian_eggleston
Okay, the socialist rhetoric is a bit over the top but the point is a valid one. Perhaps my opponent could argue the point using suitably right-wing language?
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 7 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
I am rather put off but also bemused by all the socialist nonsense, still slightly tempted to take it up...
Posted by I-am-a-panda 7 years ago
I-am-a-panda
I found a way to totally semanticise this debate, but Egglestons worth far more than that
Posted by Volkov 7 years ago
Volkov
This is brilliant. I need to find out more about this beautiful, workable, just political ideology. What was it called again?
Posted by I-am-a-panda 7 years ago
I-am-a-panda
"FORMER Soviet bloc" - Way to bend words Glenn.
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