Clarence Lee Swartz

in collaboration with
The Mutualist Associates

What is Mutualism?





The Rent-Payer

Economic Rent

Russia's Land Experiment

Land Ownership

Abolish the Landlord

Various Problems Solved



The problem of land ownership and use is undoubtedly one of the important issues in any proposal for economic reorganization. Land, in its economic sense, means not only the earth, but all natural resources as well. It means all natural opportunities for labor to exert itself.

"Labor, in order to produce," says John Beverly Robinson, "must have material whereupon to work, a place to stand while working, a place to lie while sleeping. The farmer uses land directly; the cobbler and actor both directly and indirectly. Both cobbler and actor must have a place to live and a place to work, and for these they use land directly; the cobbler, in addition, must have leather, which ultimately comes from the soil; and both cobbler and actor must have food, which also comes from the soil; and for these they are depending upon the land indirectly.

"Even water is land, economically speaking. Opportunities to produce are presented by waterfalls for power and by rivers for irrigation, by lakes and oceans for fisheries and by all navigable waters for transportation. …"
"If the whole earth were owned by one-man, it would mean that he would have absolute power, in law, to prevent all the rest from working or even existing upon it. He could put up his signs, 'Trespassers not allowed,' and there would be nothing for it but to emigrate to another planet. Or if the earth were owned by a hundred million men, it would leave the remaining fourteen hundred million equally subject to the sovereign will of the land owners."
"And that is precisely the state of affairs that prevails today. The population of the earth is estimated at something like 1500 millions. Of these, how many are land owners? We can only guess. One in ten? Surely not as many as that. One in a hundred? Perhaps one in a hundred. That would be fifteen millions who own the earth and hold the lives of the remaining fourteen hundred and eighty-five millions in their hands."

As a preliminary to any discussion of natural resources, it should be pointed out that Mutualism approaches this matter from an angle totally different from, and even diametrically opposed to, that from which it is treated by all authoritarian solutions of the problems involved. All those movements basing their doctrine on authority have precise plans and meticulously worked out formulas covering every phase of the subject and providing for every contingency that may arise in the application and administration of their proposals. This is possible because they have the power of the State behind them to enforce their schemes. They are able to say that the thing shall be done thus and so because all the police and military power of the nation may be mobilized to cause things to happen just as they have planned to have them happen.

With Mutualism, no such convenient means of bringing about its aims is available. On the contrary, Mutualists expect no revolution or cataclysm of any sort to usher in the new era, and rely in no sense upon physical force to impose their ideas upon dissenting people. They realize that the adoption of any or all of their proposals must come about only through the normal processes of evolution; induced, first, by education, and, second, by a demonstration, by those who understand the problem, of the superiority of their solution and of its complete workability in every phase of modern life.

Therefore, in the matter of land tenure, Mutualists find themselves midway between the two extremes of thought that are now engaging the attention of the world. On the one hand is the regime now recognized and in practice over the greater part of the civilized world, in which absolute titles to the possession of land are granted and defended by a supreme authority; on the other hand are those non-libertarian reformers who propose to put the land completely under public ownership or control, or to confiscate a part of its product. Both of these involve a deliberate violation of the principle of equal liberty, in that the former permits monopoly of land and, therefore, exploitation of some individuals by others, while the latter contemplates the spoliation of the individual by the organized forces of government.

Mutualists believe that both of these forms of inequity may be avoided. They believe neither in giving absolute titles to the unqualified possession of land, nor in denying all titles whatsoever. They propose to recognize conditional titles to land, based on occupancy and use by the owner; and they engage to defend such titles against all comers, so long as the owner complies with those sole conditions of occupying and using the land of which he claims the ownership. Under these terms there can be no monopoly of land, and no one who desires land for occupancy and use may go landless. Since no vacant land may then be held out of use if anybody desires it, each person may, in the order of the priority of his selection and according to his requirements and occupation, have equality of opportunity in the selection of land.

It should be remembered that Mutualism nowhere avows the intention to secure, establish, and guarantee absolute equality among persons. There is no authority or criterion in nature or in reason for such an undertaking. What Mutualists do advocate and are working to bring about is equality of opportunity, and no other proposed system of land tenure than that of occupancy and use can accomplish that purpose; and that tenure may embody all the advantages, whatever they may be, of the present plan, and discard all the disadvantages. In that respect, it is infinitely more flexible than the old method of perpetuating titles that generally originated in robbery.

Now, bearing in mind this fundamental concept of equality of opportunity, Mutualism attacks land monopoly at once at its most vulnerable point; and where its oppression is greatest - that is, in the holding of vacant land out of use. While the high prices of real estate (and the consequent enormous rentals) in the congested areas of the large cities invite the attack of the various other land reformers, Mutualists realize that these comparatively small parcels of land which are occupied and used by such large numbers of people are not so much objects of their immediate concern as are those vast tracts held out of use by land speculators while millions are deprived of the opportunity to occupy and use them.

To propose to despoil the present possessors of valuable urban property, when they are almost never the original settlers and only rarely the direct descendants of those settlers, being themselves more often the victims than the beneficiaries of the monopolistic system, would in itself be a violation of strict equity. When it comes to be seen by enlightened people that justice does not demand the protection of such persons in the continuation of their exaction of tribute from those who hold no paper titles to the land, it will be a comparatively simple matter for the present occupiers and users of those highly valuable pieces of property to become also the owners. The success of cooperative apartment houses, now being duplicated by that of cooperative office buildings, shows how easy is the transition from the status of landlord and tenant to that of cooperative occupancy-and-use ownership.

Mutualists, therefore, do not feel called upon to make their initial attack upon the validity of titles to land now occupied and used, not merely by one man, but by many men; but they do feel concerned with the monopoly of unoccupied land in both the city and country. Through the freeing of this unoccupied land, the congestion in crowded centers would be removed and millions of persons would be released from the grasp of the landlord.


The Rent-Payer (^)

Tenancy on farms, admittedly an undesirable condition, is increasing year by year. The fixed capital required is so great as to make ownership of farms by farmers more and more difficult. A prime necessity of life is easy access to the land. Nationalization of land would be an undesirable half-way measure, increasing the powers of the State without properly compensating the individual for such additional curtailment of his liberty. Even if it were re-rented to individuals upon payment to the State of the "unearned increment," preference value, or whatever other name might be used instead, the individual farmer would scarcely be better off than at present, as long as the problem of exchange remained unsolved. The same condition may be seen in the city as well as in the country.

The effect of the monopoly of money upon land is first seen in loans and debt, under mortgage, and in its influence upon business generally, as money is made scarce or plentiful. Land values and commercial rents follow the pulse of business. Rent is not only generally regulated by the rate of interest, but it is interest on the capital invested. If we then take the cost of the warehouses, the dwelling houses, and the large manufacturing plants, it will be seen that the interest-rent usury far surpasses the mere ground-rent usury. And when we realize that the very rise in ground valuation is mainly subject to manipulation of money, the whole question of rent in modern cities largely reduces itself to the question of the monopoly of money. Without the monopoly of money, and through it industry and business, rent might be avoided or diverted, but with a monopoly of money there is no possible escape. If we compare all the interest collected in this country on bonds, stocks, mortgages and other capital, with ground rent alone, the latter is but a mere bagatelle beside it.


Economic Rent (^)

Like the difference that exists between the ability of one individual and that of another, there is a difference between the advantages of land sites. Both of these classes of variation have engaged the attention of sociologists and economists for centuries, with the result that there has been developed a sharp distinction between two opposing viewpoints. On the one hand, there is the group that exalts complete equality as the supreme desideratum, to be achieved at whatever cost; on the other hand, there are those who hold that liberty is the prime requisite of human happiness, to be maintained even at the expense of absolute equality.

The outcome of these two claims is that, in the former case, the end is attained in equality of slavery - as shown in Communism; in the latter, the only equality sought is equality of liberty - as shown in Mutualism.

The two positions are as far separated as the poles, and they are here thus outlined for the purpose of showing (1) that, as attempts to equalize the results of the exercise of the abilities of human beings end in Communism, a like attempt to equalize the results of the use of all qualities of land must end in the same way; and (2) that, in either case, the end can be even approximately achieved only by the use of invasive force.

Now, between those whose emotions cause them to feel that their greatest happiness lies in equality of enslavement and those who believe that happiness can only be realized through equality of freedom there is a profound divergence, which permits of no compromise. The choice must be made between the two irreconcilable positions. Mutualists have made the choice, and it is on the side of liberty Therefore, having so chosen, they recognize that, like human differences, land differences must always exist. To accept the situation and make the best of it is their policy. And, unlike those who ignore the other economic factors, Mutualists are not dismayed, or even disturbed, by the inequalities that result from the advantages enjoyed by the holder of a superior piece of land. They do not claim or believe that all those inequalities will vanish or can be made to disappear, but contend that economic processes are already causing their diminution, and that the operation of those forces which Mutualism will inaugurate and nurture will further reduce those inequalities to a point where they may be disregarded.

That benefit which the holder of a superior site reaps from its advantages the economists have termed "economic rent." It arises from certain differences, which are, principally: Of quality and fertility of soil; of sub-surface content; of location; of topographical conditions; of meteorological conditions.
Aside from the various political measures which authoritarians propose, there is no single factor that could eliminate economic rent; but there are many and various elements that are constantly operating toward its equalization.
The constant diminution of the pristine fertility of the soil, involving a proportional increase in the amount of labor, consisting, of deeper cultivation and more abundant fertilization, required to produce crops. That the question of fertilization of wornout soils is a vital one in estimating the relative values of land is shown by the fact that it requires an average of 674 pounds of commercial fertilizer per crop acre on the originally rich but now depleted soils of Holland to secure normal crops, while the average for the comparatively new lands in this country is only 6.4 pounds. In the course of time, at that rate, the actual unfertilized value of soils may become nearly equal.

Under the Mutualist land program of occupancy and use, before land that is distant, say, a hundred miles from market, is brought into cultivation, all unused land within eight or ninety miles will be under cultivation, and the demand for the products of such land will be sufficient to warrant the payment of the higher freight. This increased demand will also stimulate the application of more labor and fertilizer to the land already in use, thereby tending to support more producers to the acre; thus increasing the population and, consequently, the number of consumers of other goods.

The general development of modern civilization tends to equalize, rather than to accentuate, economic rent. Pressure of population in agricultural areas, involving a corresponding increase in consumption of products, creates a demand that brings into cultivation land of lesser fertility. The operation of this force is continuous, and some of the factors participating are as follows:

1. Increase in transportation facilities. Land that was formerly almost inaccessible to markets has, through the use of motor trucks, and at an almost negligible cost, been brought within easy reach of markets. The value of such land is now almost as great as that of land much closer to centers of population. In the dairying districts, it has been the practice of railway companies to make a flat rate for the transportation of milk, so that outlying districts, within a certain specified radius, enjoy the same rates as those near the market. The development and greater use of airplanes will most certainly carry this process much further.

2. In the cities, a similar phenomenon is observable. Motor cars have rendered many distant suburbs accessible to even common laborers, so that the population of the cities is now being spread over much larger areas, improving living conditions for everyone, as this dispersion has relieved congestion. The immediate results of this has been a noticeable reduction in rents in what were, formerly, thickly populated urban areas.

3. Many hilly districts, the land of which a few years ago, was worthless as residence property to anyone except the occasional wealthy individual, are now subdivided and sold to persons of moderate means and even to working  people, who, thanks to the advent of the motor car, are able to utilize these areas for homes. On this account, this land has, in many instances, become more desirable, and therefore more valuable, than lower districts closer in, and has to that degree reduced the economic rent of the latter. Moreover, the further improvement of aviation will inevitably extend this leveling process by making accessible higher altitudes and more distant localities.

4. The radio, phonograph and motion pictures. No locality is now so distant or isolated that it may not enjoy a large number of the same educational and entertainment features that the city dweller has access to. This has come to be an important factor in enhancing the desirability of outlying localities and in destroying the monopoly of these advantages that the cities had hitherto possessed.

5. The very pressure of rents themselves, in the congested areas, have forced many great industries to seek locations in rural or semi-rural localities, and this change has been made feasible by the improvement in transportation facilities. These removals, furthermore, have caused a corresponding migration of workers from the cities to the places to which their employment moved. Such transfers create land values in the new locations, just as surely as they reduce them in the places left vacant.

6. Within the confines of the cities, the equalizing tendency is accelerated by the chain stores, which sell merchandise in the farthest suburban localities at the same price and in the same variety as they do in their centrally located stores. Shrewdly managed, they rarely occupy expensive corner locations, but utilize less conspicuous sites, depending upon their reputation and upon advertising to draw customers. They are assisting thus in the diminution of economic rent.

From the foregoing it will be seen that economic rent is largely the result of mal-distribution. Therefore, with the constant improvement now to be observed in the various distributive processes, economic rent tends more and more to disappear.
Contending that the abolition of ground rent (by freeing the land) and of interest (through free banking) would terminate the exploitation of the worker, mutualists oppose any scheme to equalize economic rent by forcibly taking from the occupier and user any part of the product of his land. Since in almost all cases the superior advantages which has holding may have over another are merged into the labor (cultivation and improvement) and capital (fertilizers, orchards, buildings) which he has placed upon it, Mutualists see clearly that the pure economic rent could never be accurately differentiated from the other elements, and that, therefore, to tax the so-called rental value of the land would be always to confiscate a part of his labor and capital. Rather than acquiesce in such an invasive project, they would willingly submit to the trifling inequities of economic rent that might remain after all the above enumerated equalizing forces have done their work.

If, after all these measures and economic forces had performed their tasks, there should remain extant, a cognizable amount of economic rent it would still be possible, through a system of mutual insurance, to equalize all remaining differences. But, even if it be admitted that as absolute a level of equality may not be reached by the Mutualist as by the authoritarian method, it must be borne in mind that the equality attained in the latter way is reached more by taking wealth from some than by adding benefits to others.

Finally, to further emphasize the fact that Mutualists are correct in their contention that economic rent is not a prime source of the exploitation of the worker, and that it is becoming less and less a factor in that process every day, and that, under Mutualism, its diminution would be greatly accelerated, no better argument could be adduced than one by Henry George, in his volume, Protection or Free Trade, (pp. 155-6). While demonstrating how the advantages one country possesses over another would be equalized under free trade, he leaves the inescapable deduction that, within the boundaries of any one country or any one district or city, the advantages that any one locality might possess over another would, under freedom, tend to be equalized. Here is his incontestable reasoning:

"Let us suppose two countries, one of which has advantages superior to the other for all the productions of which both are capable. Trade between them being free, would one country do all the exporting and the other all the importing? That, of course, would be preposterous. Would trade, then, be impossible? Certainly not. Unless the people of the country of less advantages transferred themselves bodily to the country of greater advantages, trade would go on with mutual benefit. The people of the country of greater advantages would import from the country of less advantages those products as to which the difference of advantage between the two countries was least, and would export in return those products as to which the difference was greatest. By this exchange both peoples would gain. The people of the country of poorest advantages would gain by it some part of the advantages of the other country, and the people of the country of greatest advantages would also gain, since, being saved the necessity of producing the things as to which their advantage was least, they could concentrate their energies upon the production of things in which their advantage was greatest."

The foregoing was written some forty years ago. It was logical then. Now, with the impetus which subsequent inventions have given to the processes the writer enumerates, his argument is irrefutable, and its application to the solution of the economic rent problem is no less perfect.


Russia's Land Experiment (^)

The case of Russia illustrated very pertinently the fact that mere return to the land can never result in the salvation of mankind at its present stage of evolution. Years ago, when the Single Tax and other schemes opened to discussion, the comparative importance of capital as against land, radical economists admitted the former to be more important in countries of high industrial development like England and the United States, but were inclined to consider the land question paramount in purely agricultural countries, like Russia. Recent history disproves the latter contention.

In Russia, after the revolution, the large landed estates were confiscated and given to the landless people. If the theories of those who believed in land reform as a cure-all, or even as one of prime importance, were true, then this one reform would have solved the problem for Russia, or at least brought about a marked improvement in conditions. The problem in Russia, however, was not to settle more people on the land. Agricultural production in that country was not only sufficient for its own needs, but, except in times of famine, they had food even for export. And even then the failure to avoid the famine was due much more to the break-down of the transportation system and monetary policy than to an insufficiency of food in the country.

Russia's first need was more capital - means of transportation, implements, machinery, and tools.
When the land had been confiscated, workers in the cities who had been producing these things began to return to the villages, to till the soil. By doing so they diminished the production of the very things which were needed most urgently by the farmer as well as by the rest of the population. Had they remained at their jobs in the cities, accelerating that ever insufficient, much needed industrial output, they could have helped agricultural production far more by supplying the farmers with tools and machinery than by, putting more land under cultivation in the old, wasteful, primitive way.

Lenin's writings show a belief in land nationalization, in the Single Tax, and in occupancy and use. All three theories are jumbled up, and all three seem to have been tried out successively in Russia. After the revolution, the landlords were dispossessed and the land was seized by the peasants. Then the Soviets tried to take nearly all the crops which the peasants had produced. This was a sort of single-tax, since at the time there were no other sources of taxation; for industry, when under Socialist or Communist control, does not even pay costs, not to mention an excess that could be taxed. The peasants were not enthusiastic about such an arrangement. The next year they saw to it that there was no crop to take. At last, from sheer necessity, the occupancy and use tenure of land had to be accepted by the government.


Land Ownership (^)

It will be interesting to note briefly the progress of land ownership from its primitive beginnings.
In primitive society (examples of which can even be found today in tropical regions), communal ownership was the rule. With the rise of feudalism, land ownership was usurped by warlords, potentates, the church, and other tyrants, who rented out land to individual tenants, but without releasing control. As serfdom decreased, the number of freeholders increased, until there was developed the still prevalent system of individual ownership of land in fee simple, subject only to taxes imposed by the government.
The fourth and final stage of land tenure will be that of ownership through occupancy and use, without taxation or rent of any kind. It will be the only type of land tenure guaranteeing absolute security to the individual, since individual ownership will be based on only one condition, namely, that of occupancy and use. No confiscation and eviction will be possible under Mutualism, for whatever land may be occupied and utilized, whether it be a twenty acre orchard or a quarter acre of shop space, or an acre of home and garden, will be the occupier and user's exclusively by virtue of the mutual agreement of free individuals, basing their judgment upon the law of equal liberty.

Absolute security in one's possessions and person is just as important in modern society as liberty itself; for, without this security, commerce and industry must remain crippled and ineffective. And a high state of development of commerce and industry is essential for the successful functioning of modern complex society.

In primitive society, land was everything. And the less the primitive farmer knew about fertilizing, rotation of crops, reclamation of land and irrigation, the more of a scramble he made for soil which was naturally in an ideal condition for cultivation, Implements and equipment meant very little then. But as the science of agriculture developed, along with that of engineering, with its dams, tunnels, reservoirs and irrigation ditches, it was found that steam tractors could plow as many acres in a given time as the old hand plow could cover square rods. With gas engines, electric power and nearly automatic harvesting machines, the capital needed to work the land and to transform the raw materials by means of all those machines and contrivances soon became more important than the land itself. Farming, which once was practically an unskilled occupation, has developed into a profession demanding high and varied skill and an all-around practical education, so that the personal factor of individual skill and efficiency, which in former times was more or less negligible, is now practically paramount, still further reducing the relative importance of the land problem in itself.

Nevertheless, it is from the land that the raw materials are derived which go into the production of all commodities. These gifts of nature are tendered without cost, and the producer should be free to benefit by their use without the payment of a price, in keeping with the Mutualist principle of reciprocity. There is no reciprocity between landlord and tenant. The tribute which the tenant must pay to the landlord in the form of rent is absolutely inequitable.
It is the result of a privilege granted by some government whose title to the land was founded on conquest or on some other inequitable form of acquisition. No condition is imposed that such land shall be used by the grantee. It is his to use or to let remain idle as he pleases, or to rent - i.e., to exact tribute from one to whom he grants the use of it.

Country rents differ from commercial rents in that one is a tax levied on the tiller of the soil, while the other is a tax levied upon the whole country because of position. Since the landlord never owns the land for the purpose of living on it himself, he is usually an absentee landlord. The dispute over him, then, is not whether he shall sell or how much he shall receive, but whether he shall live on another. If the landlord should live off the interest of the money received for the land, it would be the same thing - only a change of terms. The word "landlord" is correctly chosen. A man who owns land under the present system of land tenure is virtually a lord over others who have no land and who must pay the landlord rent for the right to live upon the land.


Abolish the Landlord (^)

The protection of a title to land should be given only upon condition that the land be personally occupied and used by the holder; and, upon his failure so to occupy and use it, it should be available to those landless persons who would conform to these conditions. The Homestead Act is built upon this principle, but it does not go far enough. It grants a full title (with the privilege of non-occupancy) to the homesteader who has fulfilled the prescribed conditions of occupancy and improvement for five years. However, if he fails to fulfill those conditions, the patent is not granted, and the conditional title held by him reverts to the government. The land then is open for settlement to anyone who will occupy it and declare his intention to live upon it. If the condition imposed for the first five years were to be made permanent and the law should apply, not only to homesteads, but to all real estate holdings, there would be more than enough good land, for all purposes, available to all who wanted to make use of it.

State grant and sanction of private ownership in land, is not of course, the ideal, even though the ownership be conditioned exclusively upon occupancy and use. In the meantime, however, short of the eventual supplanting, by private protective associations, of all government regulation, such merely protective and defensive powers of government, being the least oppressive, will probably be the last to disappear.

The only authority over land tenure which will ultimately be recognized is the equal liberty of all to its use. This does not come from a central head, but from the simple, reciprocal wants and needs of the individual. Under the full realization of the Mutualistic system, any person might use any unoccupied land without ceremony. But now the government usurps the simplest prerogatives of necessity, by what it bestows no less than by what it withholds.
"Nationalization" of the land, instead of being the cure of land monopoly, is in fact, its cause. It cannot destroy land monopoly, because that destruction must come through the denationalization or individualization of government - the exact opposite.

Under Mutualism, while no deed will be given to land in fee simple, there will be individual possession; and the possessor of the land is the individual proprietor, not a lessee under paternal authority. All the possessors of land together do not own the land collectively, as a body, or as a commune, or as a group, but separately, as independent individuals. It is an independent occupying and using ownership. The holders may exchange among themselves their right of occupancy, and no outside power can interfere with the land - has, in fact, any business with it.
This system of land tenure is automatic and self-adjusting. When it is perceived that the State is the chief disturber of rational land distribution, people will understand that only as they out-grow the State will they grow into an equitable land tenure.


Various Problems Solved (^)

The problems to be faced in actual life are many and varied, and sometimes seem impossible to solve; and yet, in the end, a comparatively simple and practical solution is always found, which often invokes amazement at the diffidence and timidity with which these problems were originally approached. The solution is usually a natural and logical development of the problem.

Prominent in this respect were the Miners' Courts in the far West of fifty years ago, which met without official sanction and functioned only by mutual agreement of the inhabitants of those out-of-the-way places. Their commonsense decisions, based merely on the merits of the individual cases, heedless of established legal practices, were quite generally respected and carried out.

In the western United States all the original titles to the land, exclusive of the old Spanish land grants, were in the Federal government, and by the Homestead and Pre-emption Acts the land was thrown open for farm purposes. Later on, the Mining Act permitted entry by those seeking the metals that are found in veins. New geological and meteorological conditions were encountered in these States that did not exist elsewhere. These necessitated radical changes in the law for which there were no precedents, except as they were established by commonsense agreements and usage among the various occupants.
Farm lands, as is well known, are laid out in squares containing a certain number of acres, one hundred and sixty acres being the number commonly allotted. The ownership of this land followed the common law and included all the land below the surface between vertical planes drawn downward through the boundary lines of the tract. In other words, the owner of the surface owned all the land below that surface.

The veins which contain the ores usually crop out on the surface of the mountains, but as they descend into the earth they often vary from the perpendicular. Unless the miner has a large piece of land, the veins will soon run under the boundary lines of his neighbor's land. Instead of permitting the mining claimant to have as large a piece of land as the farm allotments, he was given only ten acres. However, the common law rule mentioned above was changed. The claimant must first locate the vein and may claim a slice of the vein fifteen hundred feet in length; but this slice of the vein he may follow down into the earth, no matter how it extends nor in what direction it runs, even if it should extend under the surface boundary lines of other mining claims. The whole vein is his, bounded only by his end lines.
Veins running in different directions may meet hundreds of feet below the surface and cross each other. The many difficult questions of fact which arose between conflicting claimants can be easily imagined. Yet, all these questions were solved as they presented themselves, and the mining industry grew and flourished.

In the arid States water was, if anything, more important than land, for the land was worthless without water. The common law doctrine of riparian rights, which was then in force, provided that an owner of land bordering on a river, or through whose land a river flows, has the right to have the water in the stream "flow continuously past or through his land unimpeded in quantity and unimpaired in quality."

Here was a difficulty. If this rule was recognized, all the water must stay in the stream and none could be taken out for irrigation. Farming would be impossible. The courts of the Territory of Colorado soon had to sanction custom by deciding that in a "thirsty land" the common law rule must be abrogated, and that the water could be "appropriated" - i.e., taken out of the stream and diverted to the land where it was needed for irrigation. The various settlers in the vicinity of the streams might appropriate such quantities of water as they desired for use, each one designating the amount he wanted, until all the water should be appropriated. If any one failed to use the water, its flow would continue and other users could get it; but if this non-use was persisted in for a certain period of years, it was considered an abandonment of the right. There was some litigation before the various questions regarding the respective rights of the different users of the water from these streams were determined, but this did not prevent the growth and development of these farming districts up to the full extent of the water available.

These illustrations should give reassurance to those readers who fear that a departure from the present system of land-holding would create chaotic conditions, or that the disputes arising over the question of actual occupancy and use might be too numerous and difficult to decide. An equitable allotment of water for irrigation, according to use and need, is much harder, to arrive at than the answer to the question of occupancy and use of land. And the boundary disputes of adjacent land-holders on the surface are nothing in comparison with the conflicts of rights hundreds of feet below the surface, which constantly arise and are satisfactorily adjusted in mining disputes.


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