A World Where Everyone Has Enough
A Community Land Trust
in Middletown, California
“Give, give, give — what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it?” — Isabel Allende
It’s my great pleasure to announce a new project in Middletown, California, undertaken by a group of people that are excited to make a difference in their local community. I kid you not when I say that it feels like we have prepared our entire lives for it. But before I tell you what this project is, I need to give you a story of who we are, and how we got here.
Logan and I have known each other since 2008. Since then, we have worked together on many projects. Shortly after I met Logan, he shared with me a vision he had had since he was 16 years old. In it, he saw a future in which he was stewarding community resource centers around the world that took care of the basic needs of people — food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare. By having their basic needs met, people could focus on contributing their unique talents to society without needing to perform meaningless work just to survive. Logan spent more than 20 years developing a variety of projects that served as a training ground for the implementation of this vision. Then, three years ago, he was ready to start his first prototype: He bought a health-food store and added an internet lounge to create the humble beginnings of his community-focused vision. Today, this little store and lounge is affectionally known in Middletown as The Life Center.
“I want to live in a world where everyone has enough—
a world where those who have more give to those who have less.”
I was always intrigued by Logan’s vision, especially because it so closely resembled mine: Since I was a child, I wished to live in a world where everyone had enough — a world where those who had more gave to those who had less. However, the more I looked at Logan’s vision, the more I noticed that an essential piece of the puzzle was missing: It seemed to me that providing community services without addressing what caused people to struggle financially in the first place would not provide a permanent solution to the underlying problems.
Around this time I began to explore the topic of economics in order to understand why a few had so much, when most had so little: Over a period of several years, I studied economic principles not covered in mainstream academic textbooks—I intuited that mainstream economists had either not yet figured out what caused poverty, or didn’t have the backbone to publicly advocate a solution that might be politically controversial.
The fruit of these studies became a book called Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World, which just got published by North Atlantic Books. I encourage you to check it out — it’s available on a gifting-basis via my website. In it, I share how our current system of land ownership causes poverty and wealth inequality, just like the game of Monopoly—which is based on the same principle of land ownership and rent collection—always results in only a single winner.
“You can’t have a world in which everyone has enough as long as some people have to pay other people for the ground that they’re standing on.”
I’ll circle back to Logan’s vision soon. But first, I need to share with you a deeper outcome of my excursions into economic theory. Essentially, I’ve come to realize that you can’t have a world in which everyone has enough as long as some people have to pay other people for the ground that they’re standing on. I also realized that humanity’s current state of awareness regarding these matters is primitive at best — at least in the United States, which itself was founded upon the conquest of Native American land for the benefit of white settlers on a “first come, first serve” basis. In other words, land reform is unlikely to arrive at the doorstep of our collective awareness — especially on Capitol Hill — anytime soon.
But if the economy won’t change, what else can be done? In Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World, I wrote the following passage:
“We demonstrate a deep understanding of the process of social change when we realize that it isn’t an idea alone that matters, but the practice of it, no matter how small the implementation of our idea may be at first. In other words, we are called to implement new models of land stewardship that render our existing model of land ownership obsolete.”
And that is precisely what a group of friends are now attempting to do in Middletown, California: We recently acquired a commercial property in the heart of Middletown. The plan is to create the next phase of The Life Center — this time with all of its intended components in place. The Life Center will provide food (via a café and a health food store), clothing, shelter (affordable living areas), education (human development workshops), and healthcare (treatment rooms) to the local community.
“The value of land has to be shared with the community if we are to create a world that works for everyone in the community.”
But, as I discovered through my economic studies, providing community services alone is not enough to increase the quality of life for everyone in the community: I learned that the value of land has to be shared with the community if we are to create a community that works for everyone. Without that essential ingredient, social services won’t create lasting benefits for everyone. Let me explain: If social services make an area more attractive to live in, land in that area tends to be in greater demand. A greater demand, however, leads to higher rents, and therefore to a higher cost of living — which not everyone can afford. In order to truly serve the local community, we need one other essential ingredient:
community land contributions.
Therefore, a portion of the rent paid by The Life Center for the land upon which it stands will be redistributed back to the people of Middletown in the form of a monthly credit —a basic income, which residents can use to pay for food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare at The Life Center. The amount each person receives each month won’t be much at first, and perhaps it never will be much since the rental income is only tied to a single property — for now. But at least we’ll be creating a small, working model that demonstrates how the value of land can be shared with the community.
I believe that we each carry in our hearts, minds and hands undreamed-of possibilities — life is meant for this kind of stuff! And we’re just beginning: Together, let’s create a world that works for everyone. I’m reminded of the movie “The Matrix”, at the end of which the main character Neo famously says:
I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end.
I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.
- The Life Center is likely to add about a dozen new jobs to Middletown and will also promote tourism in Lake County. Its commercial / retail space will draw new businesses to the community and increase membership in the Middletown Area Merchants Association.
- Although we aim to implement this type of system as soon as possible, it may take us an unspecified amount of time to implement it.
For more information about the Middletown Community Land Trust, visit: http://www.Middletown.land
For more information about The Life Center, visit: http://www.Middletown.life
For more information about how land reform can create meaningful work, restore the environment, and bring more wealth into your local community, I invite you to read Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World.
MARTIN ADAMS is a systems thinker and author. As a child, it pained him to see most people struggling while a few were living in opulence. This inspired in him a lifelong quest to co-create a fair and sustainable world in collaboration with others. As a graduate of a business school with ties to Wall Street, he opted not to pursue a career on Wall Street and chose instead to dedicate his life to community enrichment. Through his social enterprise work, he saw firsthand the extent to which the current economic system causes human and ecological strife. Consequently, Martin devoted himself to the development of a new economic paradigm that might allow humanity to thrive in harmony with nature. His book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World is the fruit of his years of research into a part of this economic model; its message stands to educate policymakers and changemakers worldwide. Martin is executive director of Progress.org.