Deep-Six the Law of the Sea
ALL
The Immigration Debate
by The Editors | April 17, 2017
Charlie Hebdo Two Years Later: Will America Continue to Protect Free Speech?
by Steve Simpson | January 07, 2017
Free Speech Is a Right, Not a Political Weapon
by Steve Simpson | December 06, 2016
One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election
by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016
Overturning Citizens United Would Be a Disaster for Free Speech
by Steve Simpson | September 06, 2016
New Book: Defending Free Speech
by The Editors | July 26, 2016
Defending Free Speech
by Steve Simpson | July 02, 2016
How U.S. Attorneys General Are Like Chinese Censors
by Steve Simpson | July 01, 2016
Standing up for Free Speech
by The Editors | June 17, 2016
Is the First Amendment Enough?
by Steve Simpson | March 22, 2016
Free Speech Under Siege
by Steve Simpson | March 25, 2015
Freedom of Speech or Tyranny of Silence?
by The Editors | January 21, 2015
Free Speech and the Battle for Western Culture
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2015
Freedom of Speech: We Will Not Cower
by Onkar Ghate | January 07, 2015
Gutting the First Amendment
by Steve Simpson | July 17, 2014
The Myth about Ayn Rand and Social Security
by Onkar Ghate | June 19, 2014
The Campaign Finance Monster That Refuses to Die
by Steve Simpson | June 11, 2014
The “End the Debt Draft” Campaign
by Don Watkins | March 18, 2014
End the debt draft
by Don Watkins | March 13, 2014
Abortion Rights Are Pro-life
by Leonard Peikoff | January 23, 2013
A Liberal Ayn Rand?
by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012
Ryan, Rand and Rights
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
Repairing Lochner’s Reputation: An Adventure In Historical Revisionism
by Tom Bowden | Fall 2011
Why Should Business Leaders Care about Intellectual Property? — Ayn Rand’s Radical Argument
by Adam Mossoff | November 30, 2010
Elena Kagan: Could She Defend the Constitution’s Purpose?
by Tom Bowden | July 20, 2010
Capitalism: Who Needs It — Ayn Rand and the American System
by Yaron Brook | June 09, 2010
Were the Founding Fathers Media Socialists?
by Don Watkins | March 01, 2010
Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution
by Tom Bowden | Summer 2009
Nationalization Is Theft
by Tom Bowden | November 07, 2008
Supreme Disappointments
by Tom Bowden | November 03, 2008
Deep-Six the Law of the Sea
by Tom Bowden | November 20, 2007
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
No Right to “Free” Health Care
by Onkar Ghate | June 11, 2007
The Rise and Fall of Property Rights in America
by Adam Mossoff | May 16, 2007
Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons, a Panel Discussion
by Yaron Brook | April 11, 2006
The Fear to Speak Comes to America’s Shores
by Onkar Ghate | April 04, 2006
The Twilight of Freedom of Speech
by Onkar Ghate | February 21, 2006
The Cartoon Jihad: Free Speech in the Balance
by Christian Beenfeldt | February 10, 2006
The Faith-Based Attack on Rational Government
by Tom Bowden | June 27, 2005
Supreme Court Should Uphold Rights, Not Majority Sentiment in Ten Commandments Cases
by Tom Bowden | February 23, 2005
Campaign Finance Reform Attacks Victims of Corruption
by Onkar Ghate | December 26, 2003
Thought Control
by Onkar Ghate | April 22, 2003
A Supreme Court Overview
by Tom Bowden | January 01, 2000
Blacklists Are Not Censorship
by Tom Bowden | March 23, 1999
Health Care is Not a Right
by Leonard Peikoff | December 11, 1993
The Age of Mediocrity
by Ayn Rand | April 26, 1981
Censorship: Local and Express
by Ayn Rand | October 21, 1973
A Nation’s Unity
by Ayn Rand | October 22, 1972
Of Living Death
by Ayn Rand | December 08, 1968
The Wreckage of the Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1967
Racism
by Ayn Rand | September 1963
POV: Man’s Rights; The Nature of Government
by Ayn Rand | 1963

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Government And Business in Voice for Reason
Government & BusinessIndividual Rights

Deep-Six the Law of the Sea

by Tom Bowden | November 20, 2007

The Law of the Sea Treaty, which awaits a ratification vote in the U.S. Senate, declares most of the earth’s vast ocean floor to be “the common heritage of mankind” and places it under United Nations ownership “for the benefit of mankind as a whole.”

This treaty has been bobbing in the legislative ocean for the past 25 years. After President Ronald Reagan refused to sign it in 1982, repeated attempts at ratification have failed. Last month, however, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17 – 4 to send it to the full Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to ratify.

What’s at stake are trillions of tons of vital minerals such as manganese, nickel, copper, zinc, gold and silver — enough to supply current needs for thousands of years — spread over vast seabeds constituting 41 percent of the planet’s area. Senate ratification would signify U.S. agreement that the International Seabed Authority, a U.N. agency based in Jamaica, should own these resources in perpetuity.

Why should we agree to this?

Like any other hard-to-reach resources, these undersea minerals are completely valueless where they now rest. What is it that makes such resources actually valuable? It is the thinking and action of inventors, engineers, explorers and entrepreneurs who devote their mental energy to the task of finding and retrieving them. These undersea pioneers don’t just find wealth, they create wealth — by bringing a portion of nature’s bounty under human control.

Despite the treaty’s allusion to seabeds as the “common heritage of mankind,” mankind as a whole has done exactly nothing to create value in the deep ocean, which is a remote wilderness, virtually unexploited. Under the proposed treaty, however, the ocean 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.

In practice, under the treaty’s explicitly socialist approach, mining companies operate as mere licensees who must render hefty application fees as well as continuing payments (read: taxes) and obtain prior approval at every stage of work, under regulations that emerge sluggishly from multinational committees.

Licensees must also enrich a U.N.-operated competitor called, spookily enough, “The Enterprise.” For every square mile of ocean bottom a licensee explores, half must be relinquished to The Enterprise, free of charge — and The Enterprise gets to pick the better half.

Licensees must also make available, on so-called reasonable commercial terms, their technology and know-how, and even train this giant competitor’s personnel. At the end of the day, profits from The Enterprise, along with taxes from licensees, are distributed to U.N. member-nations such as Cuba, Uganda and Venezuela, who contribute nothing to the productive process.

The treaty simply assumes as a self-evident truth that wealth sharing is the moral duty of the haves toward the have-nots, and that the world’s needy nations have a moral claim on the wealth created by undersea miners. But we should pause to challenge both that moral assumption and its legal implications.

Morally, undersea mining operations are entitled to own outright those portions of the ocean floor they exploit, by virtue of the productive effort they expend. Producers in general are morally entitled to live and work for their own sake, keeping the wealth they create without any moral debt to those who didn’t create it. Because nature requires us to be productive in order to live, the businessman’s pursuit of profit is properly regarded as a virtue, not a vice indebting him to a hungry planet.

Legally, this viewpoint is embodied in the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, secured by private property rights. A historical example of the proper principle in action is the Homestead Act of 1862. Farmers acquired property rights, i.e., private deeds, to 270 million acres of fertile Midwest prairie land by the productive act of farming it, parcel by parcel.

Suppose, instead, that the U.S. government had issued only licenses, not deeds, for the acreage those farmers carved out of wild prairie land. Then suppose the government had transferred half that hard-won acreage to “The Farm,” a giant government-owned competitor whose field hands the farmers would be expected to equip and train. Of course, such a travesty would have been unthinkable in the relatively capitalistic 19th century.

Governments today have legitimate options regarding how to deal with undersea explorers’ need to establish property rights in the deep ocean. 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.

About The Author

Tom Bowden

Analyst and Outreach Liaison, Ayn Rand Institute