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Natural Environment

The commons refer to the resources that are owned communally or shared in common among communities. The commons are inclusive of everything from natural resources to software. Both private and public properties fall under the commons, and people have traditional rights over them. Traditionally, the concept of the commons referred to environmental elements, for instance, forests, rivers, the atmosphere, etc that were shared by everyone. In the current world, the concept of the commons has taken a whole new meaning. They comprise of public goods like public space, public health, education, etc; the life of commons, such as the human gene, as well as the commons in the cultural sphere, such as music, arts, literature, etc. Private property, on the other hand, refers to the tangible and the intangible entities that are possessed by individual people or firms. Owners of private property have total and exclusive legal rights over them. Examples include patents, money, land, etc.

How John Locke Understood the Concepts of the Commons and Private Property

According to Locke, God gave mankind the earth and everything inside it to use in common to their advantage and convenience, and there is no one who originally had the power to privately own the earth. He continued to say that though the earth is common to all men, each man has a right in his own person, for instance; a laborer has an incontestable right over his or her labor. On the other hand, Locke`s understanding of the concept of private property was based on the labor theory of property that emanates from a common property basis. He believed that mankind could refer to a property as private, having full disposal rights and private use, by utilizing his or her labor. 

The Legal Approach that the Courts Have Employed in Resolving Private Property Issues in Recent Decades

According to the Constitutions of various countries, such as the US (Amendment V), no private property shall be taken away from its owner for public use without fair compensation. The courts have largely applied this law in resolving various private property issues in the recent past, for instance; the case of Kelo vs. City of New London (2005), in which the plaintiff, Kelo had accused the City of New London for wrongly using its power to transfer a private property land to another public economic development. The United States Supreme Court ruled that since the property transfer by the City of New London was for public benefit, it satisfied the requirement of public use stipulated in the 5th Amendment.

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