Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Definitions in Action, Pt. 2

Today's definition is a personal favorite of mine.

Usufruct. It's a noun. It means the right to enjoy or profit from someone else's property, so long as you don't harm the property. Lawyers often speak of "usufruct" interests in land, for example. Somebody could have the right to harvest crops from the land of another, provided that the harvesting party did not otherwise damage the land. I think usufructuary interests often involve timber or mineral rights as well.

The derivation of usufruct is, most obviously, Latin. It comes from usus et fructus, which means "use and enjoyment."

But I think we could profit from thinking more on the usufructuary nature of all of our property. If we embrace the idea of stewardship, then we must recognize that we have only usufruct in all our property.

We can't take it with us. In light of this fact, many think of future generations as the ultimate owners, but I think they miss the point. The next generation is the successor in interest, but they can only get from us as much title as we have to give. If our usufruct is transient, so must theirs. They can't take it with them, either.

So either we embrace Ayn Rand and claim all the world in fee simple absolte or we recognize some ultimate Owner. I don't really see another option.

Note: I sometimes slip into using usufruct as an adjective. If anyone can find me the proper adjectival form, I promise to make the necessary corrections.

Note 2: Thanks, Mark. The sky is a couple hues darker and the grass a little sharper now that ya'll are gone. We'll see you soon.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Usufructuary. Adjective and noun.