[I]n Barnes’ latest book, Ours, he...argues for inventing a broad new class of property rights known as “universal property.” Its premise is that most of today’s wealth is co-inherited from nature and past human efforts, not individually earned.
Why should politically connected corporations and lucky individuals reap the lion's share of benefits from public lands, watersheds and the atmosphere? Why should all of us pay for civic infrastructures like our financial and communications systems even though most of the benefits are privately captured?
If some of this wealth were placed in a trust for all citizens and future generations, it would introduce a new set of institutions that could tame two serious structural flaws in contemporary capitalism – its destruction of nature and concentration of wealth among the few. The lever for this shift would be a new class of universal property rights for common assets such as the atmosphere and ecosystems, for example, which are not protected by property rights.