This key component of Gandhian economics could be called the nonviolent equivalent of ownership. Gandhi borrowed the concept from English law. It means that one is the trustee, not the owner, of one’s possessions, or ultimately one’s talents or capacities. All these are to be used for the good of society as a whole, which ultimately includes one’s own welfare. Under this system, material goods are no longer felt to be status symbols that are imagined to add to our worth. Trusteeship thus becomes an effective way to combat overconsumption, with all its ills (including for the consumer). Once trusteeship catches on it will be relatively easy to rebalance the economy and put it in the service of real needs. For Gandhi (among others), owning more than necessary inevitably means taking necessities from others: “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
The beauty of trusteeship as a tool for change is that it gives us a way to rebalance the economy without forcibly expropriating goods from the wealthy (which they seem to dislike, and forcibly resist). People can, in course of time, be educated about trusteeship and persuaded to adopt it, but they should not be coerced into doing so. Not if we want the change to last.
In the end, the sense of trusteeship can be deepened until one regards his or her own life as a trust, not to be used for oneself alone but for the good of the human family. At that verge of detachment the economic becomes the spiritual, and as Michael Sonnleitner has shown in Gandhi’s Vocabulary, that is typical of all the Mahatma’s main operational concepts.
Also related to trusteeship are the ‘[[Three Tiers of Possession]]’