ARI Press Release—Sea Treaty Drowns Property Rights

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Submitted by Ayn Rand Center on Mon, 2007-10-29 22:00

Ayn Rand Institute Press Release
 
Sea Treaty Drowns Property Rights
October 29, 2007

Irvine, CA--The Senate will soon decide whether to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, which deems most of the earth's vast ocean floor "the common heritage of mankind" and places it under United Nations ownership "for the benefit of mankind as a whole.”

"This treaty vests monopoly authority over most of the world’s seabeds in a U.N. agency that issues licenses burdened by complex regulations, fees, royalties, and mandatory land transfers," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. "Licensees are required to give back half or more of the submerged land they explore, to be mined by the International Seabed Authority using the licensees' technology and know-how, with proceeds going to U.N. members such as Cuba, Uganda, and Venezuela, who contribute nothing to the productive process.

"The proposed treaty ignores the fundamental principle that unowned natural resources should become the private property of the people whose efforts make them valuable," Bowden said. "Although the ocean floor is full of potentially valuable minerals, they remain useless until some pioneer discovers how to retrieve them. Under this treaty, however, the deep-sea mining companies whose science, exploration, technology, and entrepreneurship are being counted on to gather otherwise inaccessible riches are treated as mere servants of a world collective.

"This treaty is an injustice that will hamper, if not halt, the exploitation of undersea wealth," Bowden said. "Because no self-respecting entrepreneur will work under such conditions, the U.N. regime will attract only the kind of lumbering state-owned enterprises that have historically failed to match the performance of private, profit-seeking companies."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently held hearings on the treaty, which has the support of the Bush administration. The treaty, which President Reagan refused to sign in 1982, was submitted to the Senate by President Clinton in 1994 but never ratified. The treaty requires a two-thirds Senate majority for ratification.

"Governments have legitimate options regarding how to deal with undersea explorers' need to establish property rights in the deep ocean," Bowden said. "But it would be totally improper for America to declare eternal hostility to private property in the ocean floor by ratifying a treaty dedicated on principle to denying such rights."

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