You’re familiar with this, right?
The question [w]hether one generation of men has a right to bind another. . . is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. . . . I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living’ . . ..
It’s from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison. I came across it, again, the other day, and while I understand the general principle (he’s talking about the idea that the goods of the earth should be distributed by the preference of those curently living, rather than according to the preferences of those who lived before – it is one of his arguments against monarchy and hereditary power), I finally had to ask… what does usufruct mean?
Merriam-Webster online says “the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another.” Wikipedia says “usufruct is a right of enjoyment, enabling a holder to derive profit or benefit from property that either is titled to another person or which is held in common ownership, as long as the property is not damaged or destroyed.”
So. Now you know, and I do too.