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Home » Archives » November 2010 » Who Owns It?

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11/04/2010: "Who Owns It?"

Twice in the past few of weeks, I have read columnists in the StarPhoenix state that "We own Saskatchewan's potash". In both cases, these statements have been written by self avowed free-enterprise proponents.

In both cases, I say: "Shame on you!"

On Oct 8th, 2010, John Gormley wrote:

As the ultimate owners of the resource, citizens -- through our government -- should be well paid for the right to extract and sell the resource;

On October 23rd, 2010, Les MacPherson wrote:

This is our potash, after all. This is our resource, our property. Shouldn't we get to say who can exploit it?

Both claim to support free market enterprise, aka capitalism, but both appear to have lost sight of its key principles. The foundational principle of capitalism is the private ownership of capital, which is the means of production -- land, property, machines, etc. To be specific, the best claim to ownership of a property is to homestead it, that is to acquire it legally and make use of it. What right do we as a province have to the property that Saskatchewan Potash Corporation (now a private entity) has homesteaded?

As well, who exactly is "we"? I live in Saskatchewan, but was born elsewhere. Do I own a stake in it? If so, do those who were born here have a stronger stake? If yes, why don't natives have a stronger stake to it than non-natives do? Do those that were born here but recently moved still have a stake? If not, why do people on vacation out of province still have a stake? At some point, pretty much any rule for who actually owns this resource, if it isn't truely private, is totally arbitrary.

Perhaps the most important question is this: if I am supposed to be an owner, can I sell my stake? If not, do I in any meaningful sense actually own it?

Oh, I hear you say it's owned in proxy by the government. Well, that's not free enterprise then. There's another term for government ownership:


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