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Capitalism and Surplus Value Private ownership of land in the United States is important. Without the tools of formal property, assets could not be used for everything they accomplish in the United States. And the county land record/property system in this country is the center of a complex web of connections that equips its citizens to form ties with both the government and the private sector. This connection allows individuals and corporation to obtain additional goods and services, thus creating what is called surplus value. How else could financial organizations identify trustworthy potential borrowers on a massive scale if they did not own property? How could physical objects like timber in Maine or Oregon secure an industrial investment in Chicago if the owner of the land cannot be identified? How could tax collection work without land ownership? Land ownership and the formal property system draw out the surplus value—the abstract potential from land and buildings—and fixes it in representations that allow individuals to go beyond passively using their homes only for shelter. Here property system is used to connote the three recognized phases of authenticating ownership and value: • First, the county register of deeds office maintains a record of real estate ownership as well as the other deeds that provide people other than the owner of a property with the privilege to review an owner’s real estate rights over the property. • Second, the land records/mapping office records ownership and maps the property boundaries on the county cadastre. • Third, the local assessor establishes the assessed value of the property. Land ownership and the formal property system constitute a network in which all property records (titles, deeds, maps, and so on, which describe the economically significant aspects of real estate assets) are continually tracked and reassessed. The county land/record property system is therefore the steward of what this country represents. Public record keepers administer protocols that contain all the economically useful descriptions of assets in land and improvements. These property records alert anyone eager to use an asset about circumstances, such as encumbrances, easements, and mortgages, that may restrict or enhance the realization of that usage. This system also ensures that assets are adequately and accurately represented in appropriate formats that can be updated and easily accessed by everyone. Therefore, the combination of land ownership and the formal county property system takes on another life when someone focuses attention on the title of land, and not on the land ownership itself. At that moment, the transaction moves from the material world into the conceptual universe where capital and surplus value live. Property ownership then is not mere paper deeds but a mediating device that captures and stores most of the elements required to make a market economy run. Property seeds the system by making people accountable and assets fungible, thus providing all the mechanisms required for the monetary and banking system to work. The connection between capital and modern money runs through land ownership, and the United States has a 400-year-old history of land ownership.

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