Water and Sustainability

In his analysis of the concept of property, Professor Macpherson is concerned with the profound task of re-evaluating the analytical definition of property by returning it to its historical roots (Macpherson, 1 – 12). Such an approach encourages a new understanding about public or communal property matters that have been of concern to communities and governments within the relatively recent past, challenging human rationality and human control. The problems associated with an equitable distribution of water, which is becoming an increasingly scarce resource of vital importance to all humanity, has the capacity for enlarging perception and challenging the mind in its quest for equitable ways of governance and modes of thinking. This is especially true for the Western United States of America in which most of the land lying west of the 100th meridian of longitude receives less than 20 inches of rain annually (MSN Encarta, “Water Policy in the American West”).

The notion of property presented by Professor Macpherson stipulates that the use of the term property to represent things is a misusage (Harris, Chapter 9). In effect, the concept of property has logical and historical dimensions. The logical dimension associated with the concept of property stipulates that property refers to the right to the use of or to benefit from things. Thus, private property rights extend to exclude others from the use of private property. However, property is not always private in nature and the concept of ‘common property’ prevails whenever resources have been set aside for common use. Thus, the notion of common property can give rise to ‘enforceable claims’ not to be excluded from the use of resources. For common property, it is important to understand property rights within the context of the rights of others people, sometimes all people.

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