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Listening to a Science Friday podcast recently there was a discussion of scientists being required to sign an agreement with BP or with the US government, in order to do any data collection or research around the gulf oil spill, either sign or be denied access.

That is the sort of requirement that implies the rights of a property owner, but who owns the ocean, the wetlands?

asked Sep 19 '10 at 01:46

rootie's gravatar image

rootie ♦

No one can own the ocean unless they can sustain their life on it long-term. The relevant principle in ownership is the creation of life serving values. If I go in the jungle and cut down a tree - assuming no one owns this tree - and build a spear to hunt with, this value is mine by right. The same applies to utilizing my mind to cut down many trees and build a house to live in. The area that I am developing for my own long-term survival is mine by right.

In terms of exploiting the resources found in the ocean, the same principle applies. The person who is fishing, or drilling for oil in the ocean has a right to the area they are developing for their own needs. This does not mean they own the entire ocean, or they own some massive segment of the ocean. Philosophy can’t determine the specific quantity in this regards, only the principle that a man has a right to the product of his mind.

As a note on the BP and government restricting scientific investigation I would need to know more. The reason is that BP owns the oil that was brought up from the bottom of the ocean only because of their technology, and this means they own the mess they created. There is also the relevant fisherman and local community that has had their right’s infringed on. Much like if you and I were neighbors and I was experimenting with chemicals that led to a massive explosion that destroyed your house. I would obviously be responsible. On top of that, you as my neighbor (or the fishing community in the gulf) cannot institute force against me, this is a proper role of government. So the government should have the ability to dictate certain aspects of this particular case until all damages are paid in which case the government should leave (of course in real life they probably will not leave.)

A great podcast by Leonard Peikoff discusses this a bit in regards to ownership of the moon: http://www.peikoff.com/2010/03/01/do-property-rights-apply-on-the-moon/

answered Sep 19 '10 at 13:40

Kirk's gravatar image

Kirk ♦

edited Sep 27 '10 at 12:48

"No one can own the ocean unless they can sustain their life on it long-term."

Why does the concept of 'long-term' have to be applied, in this case? Why can't I sustain my life by building a house in the jungle, for 'short-term' purposes--say, if I wanted to build a hut to survive through the winter? That hut would be my property for the winter, but when I left during spring, I would relinquish my right to that property, if I never intended to come back. (or an even shorter duration of stay, in order to emphasize the short-term nature of my suggestion).

I'm playing devil's advocate here, not to instigate, but to point out my opinion that 'length of term' is not germain to to 'life sustainment' as it pertains to 'ownership', if in fact the concept of life-sustainment is really the standard of ownership.

Regards, -Sev

answered Sep 28 '10 at 00:00

Sev's gravatar image

Sev ♦

I believe the question has elements of package-dealing in it. Why does someone have to own the entire ocean, and why should ownership of any one parcel of the ocean be equated with owning the entire ocean?

You own a piece of "land" (physical space), be it wet or dry, if you are using it, and if you have acquired it legally (without initiating force on anyone else). That's not the legal definition of property ownership, but it's good enough for this purpose.

So, if you set up shop in the middle of the ocean somewhere, built a platform and drilled an oil well, then that well, the platform, the pipes that lead to the well, and the physical space and waterway under the platform, and the air space above the platform, extending slightly above, and all the way down to the entire length of the well, belong to you.

Once the permiter of ownership has been established, all regular property rights apply thereafter. If someone wants to dive under your platform, or conduct research around your platform if that area is part of the area owned, then they need your permission.

The only moral reason the government could prohibit or require a permit for anyone to 'conduct research' in waters close to the US, would be if it were a national security issue

Regards, -Sev

answered Sep 27 '10 at 23:55

Sev's gravatar image

Sev ♦

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Asked: Sep 19 '10 at 01:46

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Last updated: Sep 28 '10 at 00:00