Land Title Transfer: A Regression (with John W. Brabner-Smith), 48 Yale Law Journal 1125 (1939)
"Land is the basic asset of society. Its ownership affords the security upon which our complex credit structure rests. Certainty as to ownership is essential to the continued peace of each landowner or farm owner." So Professor Powell grounds his study of land title registration—"the Torrens system"—deep in concern for the public welfare. He' could have grounded it deeper. Today our accepted social goals include something more than peace. Public opinion is mobilizing behind maximum utilization for the benefit of all classes. Our governments—federal, state, and municipal—are committed to a program of reconstructing our cities and rehousing at least a third of the nation. Humanitarian sentiment, in the guise inter alia of land-purchase programs, has even begun to extend to the pitifully insecure one-half of our farm population. City planning, rural rehabilitation, metropolitan communities, and garden cities; public subsidies, government financing, graded-tax plans, zoning, and eminent domain—all these are in the headlines and in the air. It takes no prophet to foresee that fundamental reforms in land utilization are hot upon us. Yet for the achievement of such reforms without payment of undue and continued tribute to private monopolies and without fruitless bother and delay—perhaps even if they are to be achieved at all—major changes must be effected in our antiquated, pre-commerce "system" of land transfer. Cheap, expeditious, and secure methods must be designed, if they are not already available, to replace the present complicated and dilatory methods which, while costly to the individual and burdensome to the public, afford no adequate security of title. Streamlined need cannot long endure horse-and-buggy obstacles to the liquidity of land. It is an ancient query, but its relevance grows: why should not a lot or a farm be as easily acquired and as securely held as a ship or a share of stock or an automobile?
Date of Authorship for this Version
McDougal, Myres S. and Brabner-Smith, John W., "Land Title Transfer: A Regression" (1939). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 2494.