Re: Libertarianism and natural resources

Topics: Resources, Theory
04 Mar 1995

From: "DG Ervan Darnell" (Vincent E. Kargatis) wrote:
> Ervan wrote:
>> For my part, I would spin
>> it another way and say that you have not clearly purchased the right to
>> absolutely clean air over your house and that the property interest of
>> environmental carrying capacity should be sold as property in its own right
>I've been wondering: how is this new property right created? Do people
>suddenly just say "I own this."? Some case is brought to court and the
>result is that someone ends up declared the owner, at which point people
>scramble to buy this new property, or claim ownership?

It is an interesting question. There may be no adequate answer to the
question of who owns property before it is recognized as property and who
should profit from the initial sale of a newly recognized sort of property.
This is doubly sticky when there property was clearly stolen at some point
in the (distant) past. In the case of discovery, it seems reasonable enough
to ascribe property rights to the person who invested resources to fund the
discovery (lots of quibbling here too).

For my part, I follow Hayek's analysis of the matter which is simply that it
does not matter. What is important is that property rights be respected and
tradable. It does not matter who is presumed to have initial control. It
makes no difference, in the long run, whether the sale of the airwaves or
the sale of pollution carrying capacity accrues to the benefit of the
government or the homeless guy that hangs out at Main & South Loop.

For the above two examples, I would say the best course of action is for
congress to recognize they really are property, despite previous error, then
offer them up for auction. Whether or not the courts have such broad
discretion to declare things property which are not so recognized by common
law is dubious. I would sometimes be in favor of this and sometimes not.