Should Ownership Last Forever?

Posted: 10 Dec 1998

See all articles by Shann Turnbull

Shann Turnbull

International Institute for Self-Governance; Sustainable Money Working Group; New Garden City Alliance

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This paper investigates the utility of all intellectual property rights being time limited with no limits required for real assets and corporate shares. Ownership rights evolved from hereditary rulers seeking to maintain political power and wealth in perpetuity. This objective is no longer relevant with rulers elected for a fixed time. Neither are perpetual rights consistent with economic justice, efficiency and sustainability. A review of modern techniques of investment analysis reveals that unlimited life property rights are not required and that they can result in investors obtaining benefits in excess of the incentive required to bring forth their investment. Tax incentives provide a voluntary way to introduce time limited property rights to improve equity and efficiency by transferring the ownership of realty or firms to their operational/strategic stakeholders. In this way the wealth of nations could be both democratized and localized to build a more sustainable and just society.

JEL Classification: D23, D31, K2, L5

Suggested Citation

Turnbull, Shann, Should Ownership Last Forever?. Journal of Socio-Economics, Vol. 27, No. 3, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Shann Turnbull (Contact Author)

International Institute for Self-Governance ( email )

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Sustainable Money Working Group ( email )

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New Garden City Alliance ( email )

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