Revolutionary privileges (8/2016)




IN ARTOIS-PICARDIE, water pollution and disparities in living standards are nothing unusual. How do these two phenomena converge? Let’s go off at a tangent for a minute and have a look at French private property rights. In France, article 17 of the declaration of the rights of man and the citizen of 1789 regards private property as sacred, literally: “Property being a sacred and inviolable right, no one can be deprived of it, unless a legally established public necessity evidently demands it, under the condition of a just and prior compensation”. Big expensive private landholdings dot the French landscapes and make up a big chunk of the national landmass. Farmers who own vast and pricey tracts of lands often do not need so much land to live well. This is the case for thousands of farmers specialized in cereals, potatoes and beets in Artois-Picardie, Ile-de-France or Champagne for instance (Amar, 2012; Chambre d’agriculture d’Ile-de-France, 2016; Julien, 2013; Maussion, 2013). Countless other large private landholdings are mostly used for private recreational purposes (Terres & Demeures de France, 2016). In compliance with French law, those types of private lands are not contrary to the “public necessity”. And in case of seizure of land in the public interest, “a just and prior compensation” would comfort wealthy landlords. A visionary duke could not have enacted a better neo-aristocratic[1] privilege.

Nicolas Barbier

[1] Aristocracy: “The highest class in certain societies, typically comprising people of noble birth holding hereditary titles and offices. […] A group regarded as privileged or superior in a particular sphere” (3/8/2016).

Amar L., 2012. Qui sont les Français qui ont le plus gros patrimoine ? L’express – L’expansion. 3/8/2016.

Chambre d’agriculture d’Ile-de-France, 2016. Chiffres-clés de l’agriculture et de l’agroalimentaire en Ile-de-France. 9/8/2016.

Julien F., 2013. Le paysan picard a plus de blé. Le Courrier Picard.

Maussion C., 2013. Yannick Jadot: «Les manifs d’agriculteurs sont des manifs de riches». Libération. 3/8/2016.

Terres & Demeures de France, 2016. Châteaux. 3/8/2016.