Rural Land Tenure in the United States: A Socio-Economic Approach to Problems, Programs, and Trends

By Alvin L. Bertrand; Floyd L. Corty et al. | Go to book overview

Part 1 : Introduction

Land Tenure: Definition and Reference

way they can explain certain restrictions to the response of a labor supply to a market demand and aid the economist in his predictions. The important point is that the combining of the labor and wage theory of economists with the status and role theory of sociologists makes for a more adequate understanding of the institutional aspects of division of labor and for a more workable definition of land tenure.

The third term which is basic to land tenure theory and which helps to explain the usefulness of the interdisciplinary approach is exchange (or distribution). According to economic theory, laying aside all qualifying statements for the sake of simplicity, the impersonal market distributes economic rewards according to merit. Merit (or economic contribution), however, is too narrow a concept to explain fully the distribution principle even in a " free " market. The sociological concept of " values " (ideas as to whether objects or behavior are good, bad, desirable, etc.) is one of use here. It helps explain such things as government intervention (in the form of subsidy measures, for example), preferences of tenants, motivational factors, etc. All of these factors enter into the broad concept of tenure.

It is now possible to attempt a definition of land tenure. As understood here, land tenure means the customary and codified rights which individuals and groups have to land and the behavior characteristics which directly result from these rights. The reader will readily see that the above definition denotes social relationships manifest in the property rights which individuals and groups have to the land. 7

The bundle of rights concept: The conceptual scheme which has been used most often to illustrate the varying rights of individuals to land is that of the " bundle of rights." According to this concept, a part or all the rights to the land may be contracted by the owner to others. The idea is that there are many kinds of rights to land as property and that these may be shared with a tenant or others. Roland Renne points out that property rights may be split between various owners, between owner and occupier, between owner and occupier and creditor, and between private and public owners. 8

____________________
7
T. Lynn Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life (3d ed.; New York: Harper & Bros., 1953), 274. Marshall Harris summarizes the important considerations for understanding land tenure as a concept in Land Tenure Workshop Report ( Chicago: Interregional Land Tenure Research Committee, Farm Foundation, December, 1956), 1-13.
8
Roland R. Renne, Land Economics ( New York: Harper & Bros., 1947), 429.

-7-

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