We don’t get a lot of feel-good stories around these parts. So here’s your daily smile: In the St. Louis area, a group of folks started an urban farm on land owned by someone else. It was a win-win for the nearby airport, which owned the land at the time: It didn’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year mowing, and the farmers got some exercise and affordable healthy food. Then the new owner decided it was going to use that land to expand its office park.
I know what you’re expecting: angry protests from freelance socialists! Indifferent company saying mean things about the farmers! Nasty op-eds pitting rich against poor! Yeah, that’s what I expected, too. But that’s not what happened.
The tenants freely admitted that it wasn’t their land, and they had no right to criticize the company for wanting to use it. Then the company gave them eight acres right across the road and threw in an irrigation system. (If you’ve ever raised food on a large scale, you know that’s a Really Big Deal.) It is deeding the land to be a community garden in perpetuity.
This is civil society at its best. Cooperative, instead of adversarial. Respectful of property rights, while also respectful of people who have come together to build something great with their own labor. Win-win, instead of zero-sum.
You can’t mandate that – indeed, mandates would destroy that respect and create more conflict. When you try to reduce everything to a matter of law, you create hard borders that must be fought over. It is in the space between the laws, where people have the freedom to do what is best rather than what is legal, that we have the opportunity to come to amicable agreements.
If we started more conversations with that kind of mutual respect, I wonder if we wouldn’t have more of these kinds of mutual wins.