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Poaching, Wildlife, Fishing rights, Commons

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Vladmir,

You're right about there being some unique issues when it comes to fishing. However, if the government can make objective rules and regulations about their use, how is this different from the idea that certain fishermen have certain rights to fishing?

I won't pretend to know how the details would work, but the issue of trespass is not limited to the ocean. There was a time when Britain underwent a move away from large tracts of "commons" toward land that was titled. When this happened, the right of the new owner to the land came with certain conditions -- e.g. allowing certain paths across his land for people to walk across as they had customarily done for ages. In many places, land-ownership comes with rights to everything up to a certain feet below, and that's it -- the rest, being historically unexploited, may be legitimately unowned.

In essence, the government's job is not to hold such rights in trust for future generations. Rather, the government's job is to codify the rights that can be codified, recognize who (i.e. which fishermen) have those rights, document those rights in some form, and then get out of the way... merely protecting those private rights.

Also, the law should recognize only the rights of real exploiters of the resource, not (for instance) some hypothetical fisherman. Secondly, the remote consumers of the services of those exploiters do not have legal rights to the original resource. For instance, I like crabs and eat them; but as long as that remote usage is the extent of my involvement, I have no legitimate rights w.r.t. those crabs. However, a crab fisherman who has been fishing for those crabs may have some specific rights. The government must formulate a way to recognize those rights and then recognize them.

I'm sure there's a lot of detail I'm glossing over; a full treatment of this is beyond my knowledge.

The original questioner asked about protecting species. The government does protect species like cows, turkey, pigs, hens by protecting the rights of their owners. The species that nobody wants are not owned, and the government has no role protecting them for some hypothetical owner. Today, we're asked to protect species because perhaps someday someone may somehow figure out a way to exploit that species for some medicinal or other use. This is wrong. If these species have value to someone -- say to an investor who wants to capture them and keep them for the future -- then the government can legitimately create a way for such a person's rights to be recognized. Beyond that the law is non-objective.

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Notice that I said "at least at this point". There is nothing preventing the development of technology and measuring devices that would give humans the ability to cordon off vast chunks of the atmosphere and the ocean. People should be free to do this, but like I said, they will suffer the conquences. Not only would it be extremely expensive to create physical barriers in these places, but it would hinder the well-being of the very things you're attempting to profit from. Also, it would be extremely expensive to consistently patrol and enforce the legal barriers given their three-dimensional shape as well as their vast size - not to mention the millions of "infractions" that would occur on a daily basis.

Positing the future existance of weird hypothetical technology such as self-contained air domes or physical walls in the ocean is not a solution to the problem at hand. It is clear that our ability to damage or destroy the resources in question exists today. Any wierd hypothetical future technological solution is irrelevant to the current problem because it is entirely possible that the resource could be entirely destroyed before the technological "fix" even exists.

The ocean and the atmosphere, and the lifeforms that populate them, aren't privately owned because they couldn't be, it's because they simply don't need to be. People have proven to be rational enough to share these arenas of competition without the need for government oversight.
This is absurdly false. Ocean fisherman have proven time and again that without oversight, they will fish species into dangerously low levels and possible extinction. Atlantic Cod fishing is a perfect example, although I am sure there are many others.

http://www.ices.dk/marineworld/recoveryplans.asp

The tragedy of the commons is not enough to make me embrace government interventionism. If something is metaphysically common, and tragedies will occur without government control, then so be it. Let them occur.

If you think letting the oceans (or the air, waterways, etc) to be destroyed is an acceptable outcome then there really is nothing further we can discuss.

In essence, the government's job is not to hold such rights in trust for future generations. Rather, the government's job is to codify the rights that can be codified, recognize who (i.e. which fishermen) have those rights, document those rights in some form, and then get out of the way... merely protecting those private rights.

This is why I think the current system is largely heading in the right direction. For example, the government could just say "Each fisherman can fish X tons of fish each year." This would say that each fishermen essentially has a "right" to a number of fish. But what the fisherman has is not a right TO the fish but the right to try to catch fish. Thus the system where there is an open season, where fisherman are free to catch as many fish as they want as quickly as they can, (until the overall total number among all fisherman is reached) is a better system. Each fisherman has the right to try to catch as many as he can, and the most fish will go to the most efficient, most able and best fisherman. The fat, dumb and lazy fisherman will get little or nothing.

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Vladimir,

What you're proposing, instead of relying on human ingenuity and initiative to solve this "problem", is to rely on government?

It is clear that our ability prevent damage or destruction of these resources is beyond our technolgical control right now, so what makes you think that government can ever stop "overfishing" and poaching simply by making it illegal? Like I said, in order to actually implement and protect these tracts of space, alot of expensive, yet-to-be invented technology would be needed; or at least alot of time-consuming stewardship.

It certainly would be alot easier on the public treasury if a majority of the area the government has tasked itself with protecting were in the hands of various private individuals who had a personal interest in protecting it - but it would still take just as many resources to oversee. Whether or not property owners decide to create domes or "ocean walls", instead of constantly standing guard to prevent trespassing, would be up to them. It would certainly be expensive to do so, and probably detrimental to the property they would be trying to protect, but why shouldn't it be their right?

But private property is only the abstract, legal solution to this alleged problem. While it certainly is a solution that any individual should have a right to exercise, the practical solution is to just let the atmosphere and the oceans, and all of their critters, be. Since humans are part of these environments aswell, why should they be subjected to oversight of their conduct any more than a fish or a deer of a gallon of water? If it's a free, natural environment, then by definition anythings goes - including "overfishing".

To address your point about the ocean fisherman time and time again making the populations of certain fish dangerously low, I fail to see how this is a problem. When I said that people have proven themselves to be adequately rational in these environments to not need government oversight, I didn't mean perfectly rational. Of course, I'm basing that notion on the idea that erradicting a species here and there is irrational. I don't know, and frankly I don't care. My only point was that no human life is being harmed when a fisherman "overfishes" a given area or a given species since, if it weren't for actual fisherman, all of us non-fishermen wouldn't even know they were there. The onus is upon you to explain to me just how bringing the Atlantic cod or the buffalo to extinction violates your rights as an individual.

Grant

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Vladimir,

What you're proposing, instead of relying on human ingenuity and initiative to solve this "problem", is to rely on government?

This is a false alternative. It is akin to saying that in the matter of national defense, it would be better to rely on "human ingenuity and initiative" than on the government. Government action does not preclude human ingenuity, the only real issue is whether this sphere of action is proper for government oversight. And Objectivists certainly recognize at least SOME spheres of action proper for government, such as courts, defense, the legislature, etc.

It is clear that our ability prevent damage or destruction of these resources is beyond our technolgical control right now, so what makes you think that government can ever stop "overfishing" and poaching simply by making it illegal? Like I said, in order to actually implement and protect these tracts of space, alot of expensive, yet-to-be invented technology would be needed; or at least alot of time-consuming stewardship.
Well, if nothing is done certainly the harm will result. The US generally does a decent job of enforcing the laws in other areas, so I see no reason why fishing should be any different. And again, what I am advocating is largely the status quo. The current system does seem to work.

It certainly would be alot easier on the public treasury if a majority of the area the government has tasked itself with protecting were in the hands of various private individuals who had a personal interest in protecting it - but it would still take just as many resources to oversee. Whether or not property owners decide to create domes or "ocean walls", instead of constantly standing guard to prevent trespassing, would be up to them. It would certainly be expensive to do so, and probably detrimental to the property they would be trying to protect, but why shouldn't it be their right?

It would be their right if it was their property. But again, the ocean "property" we are talking about isn't property in the strict legal sense. It is a region of government control where no fee simple private property rights can ever exist.

But private property is only the abstract, legal solution to this alleged problem. While it certainly is a solution that any individual should have a right to exercise, the practical solution is to just let the atmosphere and the oceans, and all of their critters, be. Since humans are part of these environments aswell, why should they be subjected to oversight of their conduct any more than a fish or a deer of a gallon of water? If it's a free, natural environment, then by definition anythings goes - including "overfishing".
If there was no risk of extreme harm, I would agree with you. This is why I don't agree with the idea of endangered species on private property. Context is everything. The context we have here is of a government-controlled resource, unable to be turned into private property, which if not protected will be destroyed with grave consequences. My solution of government oversight applies ONLY to such situations. It is not a blank check for government action in the entire economic sphere.

The onus is upon you to explain to me just how bringing the Atlantic cod or the buffalo to extinction violates your rights as an individual.

As I said before, this isn't an issue of individual rights. It is about use of a government-controlled resource. It would only be an issue of individual rights if it were a privately-owned resource, and I think the argument so far proves that the potential for it being privately-owned will occur, if ever, in the future once wierd new technology is invented. In the here-and-now, it is impossible to turn into a private property resource.

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As I said before, this isn't an issue of individual rights. It is about use of a government-controlled resource.

That's where you're wrong. Where did you get the impression that the government had a right to control the resource in question?

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That's where you're wrong. Where did you get the impression that the government had a right to control the resource in question?

Because of the fact that the ocean in question is under the sovereignty of the government, yet is not and cannot be private property.

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Because of the fact that the ocean in question is under the sovereignty of the government, yet is not and cannot be private property.

The entire nation is under the sovereignty of the government. That does not make it the owner of any of the land or any of the resources. And as I demonstrated, it most certainly can be private property. There can be a purchasable right to fish in a given area just as much as there can be a purchasable right to a radio frequency.

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The fact that the government could try to sell fishing rights in a certain territory doesn't solve the problem for the reasons I explained in detail much earlier in this thread. For the selling of fishing rights to work, the rights would have to be sold for areas which contain discrete fish populations. It is very difficult if not impossible for this to happen. For one thing, it is ridiculously hard to predict exactly where in the ocean the fish will be at any given time. For the other, the area the fish populations exist in can span national boundaries, governmental vs. non-governmental waters, etc.

Comparing fishing rights to broadcasting is like comparing apples to oranges. Broadcasting rights are easy to deliniate, once you buy the rights to a certain frequency you know you will able to broadcast on it over a certain area. All the territory covered by the broadcasting rights is within the jurisdiction of the United States. Too, there is no problem with neighboring stations "stealing" your broadcasting rights as by nature, stations operate at discrete frequencies.

The fishing issue is much more analagous to the problem of broadcasting rights at national borders. For example, if a station gets a license from the U.S. government to operate at 91.7 FM they get to prevent other stations in the U.S. from interfering with that frequency with a competing or jamming broadcast. However, there is nothing to prevent a Mexican station right across the border from operating at 91.7 because they are out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. government and court system. At best, you have to hope for some international agreement between the countries and experience shows this is much, much, much harder than protecting rights via a domestic court system.

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1) You didn't answer the first part of my post

2) Fishing areas could have "no mans lands" around them to prevent lurking on your neighbor's borders. And most of the problems you mention are solved if you make the area of a given license sufficiently large.

3) International border disputes are for diplomats. They needn't concern us.

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1) You didn't answer the first part of my post

If you mean the part about sovereignty vs. ownership, I answered that question much earlier in this thread. In short, sovereignty is not ownership but sovereignty + lack of private ownership = government control.

2) Fishing areas could have "no mans lands" around them to prevent lurking on your neighbor's borders. And most of the problems you mention are solved if you make the area of a given license sufficiently large.

Again, you seem to be ignoring the practical concerns and addressing only theoretical possibilities. For instance, if we were talking about fishing in an American inland lake, I would agree that selling fishing rights is the way to go. The complications in the matter at hand, however is that it is NOT possible to create fishing rights areas which are sufficiently large because of both practical, legal and diplomatic concerns.

3) International border disputes are for diplomats. They needn't concern us.

They most certainly do concern us as the matter in question is occuring almost entirely as the result of international action at the borders and limits of national sovereignty. To dismiss international concerns is simply foolish, considering the problem is at its root an international one.

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If you mean the part about sovereignty vs. ownership, I answered that question much earlier in this thread. In short, sovereignty is not ownership but sovereignty + lack of private ownership = government control.

Prove that assertion.

[edit:] I see you say "control." Remember that "control" is not ownership. If the government is not the owner, than anyone would have the right to gain control of as much of it as they are able. Morally, the government has no right to stop anyone up to and including extinction or depletion of the "resource." The only thing the government has the right to do is to prevent the violation of rights. If nobody has a right to a given resource, then the rightful owner is whoever takes it first.

The burden is on you to prove what right is being violated that would necessitate a government to stop someone from harvesting a given resource.

Edited by Inspector

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Additionally, if rights are delegated by citizens to the government, then it stands to reason that where there can be no private property rights the government cannot have any, either. Where would they get them from? From God?

I think the proper way to deal with this situation is to say that the government has a type of stewardship over its territorial waters, in a similar way as the government held a stewardship over the Wild West. There may have to be some formulated rules to prevent someone from buying a piece of ocean and refusing everyone access, as that could potentially disrupt naval movement quite badly, but I do not see this as an impossible to overcome problem, any more than those which exist with land.

The thing is that the problems you cite are the problem of the buyer of the land, or in this case sea. I am absolutely sure that if someone could buy a piece of sea that they would find ways to get around the problems you cite, so their owned sea actually becomes more valuable. That's a great incentive for improvement, don't you think?

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I do dispute that. As soon as they fish those fish, they most certainly do own them. If you're concerned about who owns the sea area in which the fish dwell, then see Ayn Rand's article on the ownership of airwaves. The fish should properly belong to those who can fish them, not to "the government."

The proper way to deal with nobody owning the fish is to establish ownership of them, not to place the government in the position of perpetual nanny.

I agree with the need to establish property rights in the ocean. And I believe that there is a proper role for government to play in such situations - and that role is centered around defining and protecting those property rights.

Ownership of the airwaves is an excellent example for this sort of discussion. At one time, there was no need for property rights in the airwaves because, for a certain period after their existence was discovered they had zero economic value. Once commercial applications for their use came along, however, before such rights could be recognized two things had to happen: the boundaries of exactly where such rights started and ended had to be defined and a process had to be put in place by which individuals could properly and legally acquire such rights. Part of the government's proper function of protecting individual rights is to define such boundaries and implement such processes.

In the case of airwaves, defining the specific boundaries of the rights involved meant dividing the broadcast spectrum up into specific and legally defined frequencies. It also meant establishing specific boundaries in terms of how powerful of a signal individual stations could transmit so as not to interfere with other stations in different regions of the country which were also broadcasting on the exact same frequency. In other words, it meant that one's property rights in a radio station was a property right to something specific - a right to broadcast over a specific frequency on the dial up to a specific level of signal strength. Those who emit signals which interfere with that radio station's signal are, thereby, guilty of violating the station owner's property rights.

As for the process of acquiring the rights - i.e. acquiring a legally recognized title to a specific frequency in a specific geographical region - the model that was imperfectly implemented in the US was somewhat along the lines of homesteading, which I think is the most rational way of dong it. What would NOT be a valid model would be for some person to arbitrarily come along and claim "Gee, I am asserting my claim to ownership of this frequency and that frequency - and I expect the government to enforce it on that basis." In a free society, rights are not arbitrary and cannot be established by mere assertion - the original claim to the property must be earned through some sort of creative and or productive process.

On that basis, the proper method of acquiring ownership in a previously unowned frequency would require one to actively and continuously use the frequency one wishes to establish a claim over. After a certain passage of time the law would recognize that the operators have created a viable asset and would give full legal recognition of the rights that the creators of that asset have properly earned and it becomes theirs to do with and dispose of as they see fit. Prior to that passage of time, however, should the station go "dark" for a prolonged period of time, the government would consider the operators as having abandoned their claim to that frequency meaning that anyone else wishing to do so is free to come along and put in the necessary effort to transform that specific unowned and previously valueless spectrum of natural phenomena into an asset. In doing so, the new operators would be establishing their moral and legal right to that asset which is the government's responsibility to recognize and defend.

Getting back to the ocean - a similar pattern would be applicable. A person cannot properly come along and merely assert ownership over so many square miles of the ocean. By what right can any person make such a claim? What did person do to actually earn such a right? Merely asset that he has it? That's not good enough - and it is totally arbitrary.

Property rights are derived from the fact that one has a right to one's own time, creativity and effort and the product of one's creativity and effort - and it is only through a process of creativity and/or effort that title to previously unowned entities can be morally acquired.

Furthermore, in the case of the ocean, any property rights one wishes to claim must be the rights to something specific. For example, the right to fish in certain waters, the right to extract mineral wealth in certain parts of the ocean, etc.

For example, let's assume I invent some sort of machinery capable of mining gold and silver from the bottom of the ocean along with remote controlled underwater robots capable of operating the machinery. Under a rational legal system, all I would need to do is file a claim with the government my intention to mine in a certain unowned portion of the ocean. The government would give me a specific, previously established legally defined period of time for me to commence such mining operations during which the government would defend and enforce my rights to do so. If I fail to begin mining during this period of time, the government would regard my claim as being abandoned and will no longer recognize or enforce it. However, once I actually start mining, as the owner of my effort, I have a moral right to that asset of wealth which I have created and, as a result, a proper government would recognize and protect my ownership in that underwater mine.

In the case of exclusive fishing rights over a certain geographical portion of the ocean - again, that is not something that a person can merely assert. Since it is not private property, anyone has the right to fish on the open ocean. In order to earn the right to exclusively fish a certain area, one must create some sort of asset thereby giving him a moral and legal claim over it.

For example, if I discover an economically viable method of fish farming in the ocean, in order to actually implement it, it would be essential that I have property rights in my endeavor which will be defended by the government. If I decide to go out and breed and feed large quantities of a certain type of fish in a specific portion of the ocean - larger quantities than would normally exist under natural circumstances and I selectively bred the fish in order to make them more commercially desirable than run of the mill natural fish, I will have created through my own effort certain assets that I have a moral right to and I am the ONLY person who has a moral right to those assets. If such were to happen, it would be the proper function of government to recognize and enforce that right and, if necessary, update the laws in order to define and make provisions for such rights, including preventing others from fishing in those waters.

Those are just a couple of examples of how property rights in the ocean can and, once there becomes an economic need for them, should be established. It is important to keep in mind, however, that such rights would NOT prevent boats from crossing over those portions of the ocean that a given person has a right to mine or fish any more than the fact that I own my house gives me a right to demand that American Airlines not fly over it. To assert a property right over the passage across a certain specific surface area of the ocean, I would have to somehow earn it. For example, I could properly demand that boats stay outside of a certain limited distance from my oil platform. Or, if I excavate a safe deep water passage through a very rocky and dangerous portion of shoreline that is convenient for ships to travel through, I would have a moral and legal basis to assert property rights over the channel and to charge whatever tolls I wish for passage through it.

Now, in response to my posting where I asserted that, in order to protect the rights of neighboring property owners, there is a proper basis for a limitation on just now much economically valuable wildlife which temporarily enters my property I may properly hunt, Inspector wrote:

I don't know if I agree with that. I think that if someone wants to claim a right to such deer, the burden is on him to do something to prevent them from wandering onto the property of others. It's up to him to acquire a larger lot of property or to put up a fence that will hold and control the deer. Absent that sort of action, just what claim does he rightfully have on the wandering deer once they wander off his property?

The problem here is that the above does not take into consideration important matters of context. First, the example specifically deals with animals that have economic value on the basis of them being wild animals for which things such as fences are inapplicable. For example, a fence would be useless when it comes to wild turkeys and other birds - and since deer have limited or no value as domesticated animals that is not applicable either. Second, as far as acquiring a larger lot of property, the example I gave was already one where the owner of a relatively small lot killed off all of the deer from a much larger surrounding area by virtue of the fact that, over a period of time, all of the deer in the area eventually crossed it at least once. The specific context under discussion is exactly that of a situation where there are multiple property owners in relatively close proximity to one another. Sure, a larger lot would solve the problem - but that is not what is under discussion.

The solution to this issue is not all that much different than the solution to the issue of how to acquire property rights over air waves or property rights over portions of the ocean.

Who owns wildlife? Nobody does. By definition it is ownerless. People can and do own domestic animals because of the effort that went into domesticating and breeding them. People can and do own the land on which the wild life exists. If you acquire title to a certain plot of land either by purchase, homestead or gift, you own that property and everything which is physically attached to it - which includes buildings, rocks, plants, etc. Wildlife, however, is not specifically attached to a given piece of property. It is transient. If a bird lands on your next door neighbors' property, it is not his bird. It is just a bird. If it then flies over to your property, the ownership of the bird does not suddenly transfer from your neighbor to you. It is just a bird.

As with property rights in anything else, acquiring ownership in wildlife requires the exertion of effort. Therefore, if you are hunting one your own property and shoot a bird, as a result of your effort, you have a right to its carcass. If you capture or tame a wild animal, then by virtue of your expenditure of effort, you have acquired a right to that animal. This I suspect is non-controversial with the participants in this thread.

What is a matter of controversy here is whether there is a proper role of government. I say there is in certain delimited contexts. And that role is the same as it is in any other realm which involves transforming previously unowned natural phenomena into private property. As I mentioned at the beginning of this posting, that proper role of government consists of defining the specific boundaries of the property rights and establishing a process by which to legally acquire those rights.

In cases where the wildlife has no economic value or is a disvalue, the situation is pretty straight forward: If a rat is on your property, you alone have the right to shoot it. For someone else to shoot it would involve them trespassing on your property. And because rats have no economic value, there is absolutely no basis to assume that destroying the rat will cause harm or damages to some other person. Likewise, while rabbits may have a marginal economic value to surrounding property owners, if one is digging up your vegetable garden, you have a right to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the hard work and money you put into that garden. In such instances, the only necessary role of government is to protect the property owner from those who would physically trespass onto the property itself - no wildlife specific consideration necessary.

Where it is appropriate for the government to step in is when there exists a basis of potential dispute between neighboring landowners over their individual rights to acquire property rights in an economically valuable resource which, by its metaphysical nature is NOT fixed to any one given plot of land but rather is transient and in a constant state of flux between one plot of land and another. The arbitration of private disputes IS a proper function of government - and the only alternative is for people to settle such matters by force, which, of course, is totally unacceptable in a civilized society. Therefore, when such disputes arise, the government MUST step in, define the rights of all parties and enforce them accordingly.

When the government does step in, it is necessary for it to take cognizance of the metaphysical nature of whatever it is that is the subject of dispute - i.e., the government must be sensitive to context.

In this instance, the context consists of the fact that the dispute centers around a resource which IS metaphysically transient along with the fact that, while the resource is self-renewing, its continued replenishment and possibly its very existence will be jeopardized or destroyed if it is depleted below a certain point.

Therefore, it would be entirely appropriate in the case of such a dispute for the government to recognize the unique context involved and determine that, if one of the landowners systematically depletes that transient resource below a certain point during the moments when it temporarily passes through his plot of land, it would constitute a violation of the rights of the neighboring property owners. The specific right that would be violated is NOT the neighbors' property rights in the transient wild animals. Nobody owns the wild animals so there are no property rights attached to them. What would be violated would be the neighbors' rights to potentially ACQUIRE property rights in a resource which is NOT permanently attached to any given plot of land but is instead metaphysically transient.

Objectivism regards individual rights as absolutes. But they are not intrinsic absolutes - they are contextual absolutes. Your right to do what you please with your property and while you are on your property is absolute - but only so long as it does not result some form of physical force or damage to another's rights and property. Your right to the items which are permanently attached to your property is absolute - they are YOURS. Transient wild animals which are not unique to any single plot of land are NOT yours because they are NOT property and belong to NOBODY until someone either shoots, tames or captures the animal. One DOES have a right to shoot, tame and capture transient animals that temporarily enter one's property - but that right is contextual. The fact that the animals are NOT unique to one's own property and that one's neighbors possess the exact same right to shoot or capture those same animals when they are temporarily on THEIR property is a valid ground for potentially rational dispute between neighbors and is something that the law and government does need to take cognizance of. For it to do so is NOT an example of the government "owning" or "controlling" or even "regulating" wildlife. It is an example of the government arbitrating private disputes which is one of its legitimate functions.

Along those same lines, while I don't necessarily agree with all of the specific arguments that Vladimir has made in order to put forth his case, I think his more fundamental point about over fishing has a great deal of merit. The situation is essentially the same as with wildlife and is merely complicated by the fact that there are no property rights at all in the ocean.

In the example of over hunting wild animals, the dispute is between the rights of a rather limited number of property owners - those who don't own land have zero rights to shoot at the animals unless such a right is delegated to them by one of the property owners. In the ocean, however, anyone in the world, including you and me if we chose to do so, has just as much of a right to go out and fish in the ocean as does anyone else.

The issue of over fishing is essentially a private dispute between a potentially very large number of fishermen. It is a dispute over exactly what are the boundaries of an individual fisherman's rights to fish in certain waters.

Exactly who has a right to fish in the ocean? Anyone who wishes to do so. Why? Because the fish and the ocean belong to nobody - therefore anyone has the right to capture the fish. And when a fisherman captures a fish, it becomes his fish. None of this, of course, is under dispute. The dispute is over the question of whether a single fishermen or a small group of fishermen have the right to fish to such an extent that the supply becomes permanently depleted.

In this case, I think the essential fact that must be taken into consideration is the metaphysical nature of the resource. Unlike mineral resources, fish and other ocean life are a self-renewing resource - so long as you do not capture too many, the fish that evade capture will have little baby fish thus ensuring a steady and permanent supply.

In the case of an underwater mineral resource such as oil, it is entirely proper and moral to completely deplete the supply of oil if it makes economic sense to do so. The oil in a place such as the Gulf of Mexico exists in a finite quantity and we have absolutely no sacrificial duty to refrain from exhausting it so that some unspecified "future generation" can eventually exhaust it. A "grab all you can get" approach to finite mineral resources is perfectly moral and proper because, someday, those resources will be exhausted and whoever wishes to do so now has just as much right to as does anyone else.

In the case of self-renewing resources, the context is different. The supply of that resource can be constant and permanent and would be unless someone depletes it beyond a certain point. Since nobody owns that resource and anybody has the exact same right as anyone else to jump in a boat and acquire that resource, I think its depletion beyond a point that it is no longer capable of being self-renewing does constitute a valid and entirely rational basis for a dispute between all of the many people who wish to exercise their right to attempt to acquire property rights in that resource.

The proper resolution of that dispute has nothing to do with government "control" over fishing or "preserving nature" or "preserving the livelihood" of certain groups of fishermen. The proper role of government is to establish a legal and objective process by which any individual who chooses to exert the necessary intelligence and effort may acquire property rights in a specific self-renewing resource which exists in a finite quantity and is owned by nobody.

The fact that we are dealing with international waters outside the jurisdiction of any specific government complicates the issue but does not change the essentials. In a rational world, international treaties might very well be useful in this regard. In today's world, when it comes to governments run by thugs and dictators, international treaties are frequently not worth the paper they are written on.

Anyhow, sorry for the very long posting. It is just that quite a number of interesting but similar points have been raised so far in this thread which I think deserve a response with some amount of elaboration.

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Dismuke, you make a lot of good points, but I still dispute the points on which we previously disagreed. I’m going to quote selected passages from your post, but other than those passages it is fairly safe to assume that I agree with everything else you said.

In this instance, the context consists of the fact that the dispute centers around a resource which IS metaphysically transient along with the fact that, while the resource is self-renewing, its continued replenishment and possibly its very existence will be jeopardized or destroyed if it is depleted below a certain point.

I think this can be a legitimate consideration, but before you consider it, you must first establish: who owns the self-renewing resource. Absent ownership of it, you cannot claim that someone else is wrongfully deprived of it when it is destroyed. In other words, there must be a right broken in order to claim a wrong.

That said, it is your solution to this that I dispute:

Therefore, it would be entirely appropriate in the case of such a dispute for the government to recognize the unique context involved and determine that, if one of the landowners systematically depletes that transient resource below a certain point during the moments when it temporarily passes through his plot of land, it would constitute a violation of the rights of the neighboring property owners.

As that statement stands, I disagree. As you said,

Who owns wildlife? Nobody does.

And I say that therefore, nobody may claim harm if someone were to destroy it all. (the unowned wildlife, that is)

You acknowledge this:

The specific right that would be violated is NOT the neighbors' property rights in the transient wild animals. Nobody owns the wild animals so there are no property rights attached to them.

…but then assert a new right that I have never heard of:

What would be violated would be the neighbors' rights to potentially ACQUIRE property rights in a resource which is NOT permanently attached to any given plot of land but is instead metaphysically transient.

What is this “right to potentially acquire?” How does one gain such a right? Does this not directly contradict that fact that, until one puts in the effort and actually acquires a resource, they have no claim on it whatsoever?

Keeping with the deer (which is the better example because it allows us to focus on the issue), I think there does not exist any such thing as a “right to potentially acquire” the deer. Either they have done something to acquire an actual claim on the deer (such as shooting it), or they have not.

As I said, I agree that it is legitimate for a government to recognize a self-renewing population as a thing to which someone may claim ownership. I don’t agree that it can be something that can be loosely held by all the people who merely potentially might hunt or fish. There must be a system under which someone may be recognized as the rightful owner of the population.

The question then becomes, what must one do to claim that ownership?

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…but then assert a new right that I have never heard of:

What is this “right to potentially acquire?” How does one gain such a right? Does this not directly contradict that fact that, until one puts in the effort and actually acquires a resource, they have no claim on it whatsoever?

Basically, there are two unique types of rights under discussion here.

The first involves the right of title which one has to one's property. That right is derived from whatever means one rightfully acquired the property - be it purchase, homesteading or gift. Ultimately, that right of title is derived from the effort that was put forth by the very first person who undertook the steps necessary to morally and legally transform that property from its generic, unowned natural state into a specific asset of private property.

There is no title to transient wildlife - it is merely something which exists.

The right to potentially acquire such transient wildlife is not a right of title but rather a freedom of action - much in the same way that you have a right to speak your mind or to move from one area of the country to another. The moral basis of this is the fact that you have a political right to do anything you like so long as it does not in some way violate the rights of another. In this case, since wildlife and other unowned natural phenomena are owned by nobody, its transformation into private property, in and of itself, does not violate anyone's rights. Indeed, the transformation of such phenomena into private property is a highly desirable state of affairs - and, for that reason, that transformation has already happened with most economically desirable resources.

Now, the right of any given individual to potentially acquire ownership to specific types of wildlife depends in large part on the context of the particular situation. For example, the right to potentially acquire ownership in a deer (I say "potentially" because one may not be successful in actually capturing or shooting the deer - there are lots of hunters who return empty handed) is something which is limited exclusively to the owners of the particular parcels of property that the deer roam across. If you don't own land or if deer never wander across your land, you miss out on this particular right.

In the case of the wild ocean fish (as opposed to fish in oceanic fish farms) however, so long as you are willing to put in the effort and capital necessary to acquire a boat and the proper equipment, you have the exact same right to go out and attempt to catch fish as does anyone else. Because nobody owns the ocean or the fish that is in it, there is no basis at all for any one person to somehow claim that he has a greater right to fish in it than does another.

Because most examples of unowned natural phenomena exist in such a state due to the fact that they have zero economic value or are a disvalue, there is little if any need for the legal system to become involved. If you are enjoying barbecue as a guest in a friend's backyard and a mosquito lands on your arm, you are not going to ask your host: "Do I have permission to swat and kill your mosquito?" You are just going to kill the thing. And if an animal rights activist tried to sue you because you killed such a mosquito while you were a guest on his property - well, even today's courts would probably laugh it out of the building.

As I said, I agree that it is legitimate for a government to recognize a self-renewing population as a thing to which someone may claim ownership.
Absolutely - and such self-renewing populations should exist as private property whenever possible, as for example, is currently the case with the horse, cattle, pig, goat, chicken, cat and dog populations in North America.

The issue at hand, however, is that there are certain contexts in which desirable self-renewing populations, by their very metaphysical nature, either do or or always will exist in a wild and not a domesticated state.

I don’t agree that it can be something that can be loosely held by all the people who merely potentially might hunt or fish. There must be a system under which someone may be recognized as the rightful owner of the population.

I agree completely - and that is exactly what I am arguing for. There needs to be a legal process by which persons who wish to do so can acquire ownership and property rights. In the vast majority of instances, the principle that, so long as one does not trespass on another's private property, if you can shoot it, capture it or tame it, it's yours, is more than sufficient. The only time there is any need for special legal consideration is when a potential dispute arises between individuals who all have a more or less identical moral and legal basis to exploit a limited, economically desirable self-renewing unowned population. Such disputes are relatively rare but can and do arise when desirable wildlife is in constant flux between parcels of property or, in the case of the ocean, where there are no property rights at all. When such disputes do arise, it is the proper role of government to step in and identify and define the specific rights of each party. Absent such a dispute, government involvement is unnecessary and undesirable.

The question then becomes, what must one do to claim that ownership?

That is a strictly legal and not a philosophical question. The philosophical issue is the fact that human beings do have the right to transform unowned natural phenomena into private assets. The specific process by which such a transformation of any given example of natural phenomena takes place in order for a person to acquire a government recognized and enforced title to that asset and how potential disputes in this area are resolved is highly contextual and is a specialized legal issue.

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The right to potentially acquire such transient wildlife is not a right of title but rather a freedom of action - much in the same way that you have a right to speak your mind or to move from one area of the country to another. The moral basis of this is the fact that you have a political right to do anything you like so long as it does not in some way violate the rights of another.

I don't understand. In relation to fish, freedom of action means that anyone has a right to cast his net into the water... where does it guarantee that there will be a fish in that water for him to catch? Doesn't the definition of freedom of action specifically deny any guarantees of results?

I don't think that freedom of action is the solution to this problem.

The issue at hand, however, is that there are certain contexts in which desirable self-renewing populations, by their very metaphysical nature, either do or or always will exist in a wild and not a domesticated state.

First, I have serious doubts that such things truly exist. There are only things which are currently wild... waiting for us to tame and harness them. There is no need to recognize a permanently unownable good. There is only the principle that if one wishes to own such a thing (and therefore have a right to expect it to not be depleted by others), that one must do something to contain it; to turn it into owned property.

If you would say that a captured breeding stock is not the same thing as a wild population, I would agree: the wild population is not something that anyone can claim a right to (in its wild state, that is). If there is something out there that cannot be bred in captivity, then I say the burden is on those who want that creature to find a way.

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I don't understand. In relation to fish, freedom of action means that anyone has a right to cast his net into the water... where does it guarantee that there will be a fish in that water for him to catch? Doesn't the definition of freedom of action specifically deny any guarantees of results?

Yes - in the overwhelming number of contexts, all one has to do in open ocean is cast one's net into the water and grab all he can. Is there a guarantee that one will actually catch fish - no, of course not. I never suggested there was. Clearly there is no guarantee of results. I am not sure where you got the idea I ever suggested that.

The specific issue under discussion is a context where a great many people have their nets in the water and are so successful at catching a valuable species of fish that its population is taken out at a much faster rate than it can naturally replenish itself thereby leading to potential economic depletion or possibly even the very extinction of the species. Should that happen, there will be no fish left for anyone - and such a circumstance is a problem for obvious reasons.

The fact that the problem in this oceanic context is not very conveniently and easily solved in the exact same manner and by the exact same laws and principles that are used to solve disputes on dry land where there are firmly fixed and defined real estate boundaries does NOT change the fact that the potential depletion and/or extinction of such fish IS a problem. If a problem or dispute arises in a totally new context of reality where existing laws and principles are not fully sufficient or applicable, it is NOT the task of reality to conform itself to our pre-existing principles. It is OUR task to find ways to either apply the old principles to the new context or, if that is not appropriate, to discover entirely new principles which are applicable.

I don't think that freedom of action is the solution to this problem.
But I never put forth "freedom of action" as being some sort of "solution." You asked about the basis of one's right to attempt to acquire natural resources which currently do not exist as property. By "freedom of action" I simply meant that you have a legal right to do pretty much anything you want to do so long as you do not violate someone else's rights - and in the vast majority of contexts, taking ownership of unowned resources does NOT violate anyone's rights simply because nobody currently owns those resources.

First, I have serious doubts that such things truly exist. There are only things which are currently wild... waiting for us to tame and harness them. There is no need to recognize a permanently unownable good.

But if, based on a resource's metaphysical nature and the current limits of human knowledge and technology, that resource currently IS an unownable good - well, that is a fact of reality and, as such, it not only should be recognized, it MUST be recognized.

The fact that someone might come along someday and find a way to make it ownable is purely hypothetical and utterly irrelevant to what actually is. Dealing with the facts of reality requires one to deal with what IS - not what might be, should be or ought to be.

There is only the principle that if one wishes to own such a thing (and therefore have a right to expect it to not be depleted by others), that one must do something to contain it; to turn it into owned property.

And exactly what happens if, based on the metaphysical nature of the resource and the existing limits of human knowledge, there currently does not exist any known way to define very specific and delimited rights of private property in the overall population of that resource? Does one, out of loyalty to that principle, simply deny that there is a problem and suggest that the resource might not be so important and that its possible extinction might not be such a horrible thing after all?

Once again, it is not the task of reality to conform to our principles. I am afraid it is exactly the other way around.

If, in the task of having to deal with what is one finds that one's principle is only applicable in terms of what ought to be - well, that is a strong sign that one might need to check his premises and either find a way to revise the principle so that is applicable to the context at hand or find some other principle that does take full cognizance of all aspects of that context.

I will attempt to concretize my above points by way of an example.

Let's suppose that scientists suddenly discover that a substance in the ground-up bones of a somewhat rare species of fish - we will call it the prontofish - works as a cure for a very deadly disease. Let's also suppose that the prontofish is the only known source of this substance and all efforts to try and create a synthetic substitute have so far failed. We will also suppose that every attempt to breed or move the fish outside its natural habitat has ended in dismal failure. Every time someone has attempted to move the fish elsewhere it soon dies. Furthermore, let us say that the entire known population of prontofish in the world is somewhere around 40,000 fish. At the rate that the fish breed in their natural habitat, scientists have determined that no more than 25% of the population, or 10,000 fish, can be captured each year without jeopardizing the species' ability to survive and replenish itself thereby assuring a continuous future supply of the lifesaving medicine.

Now let's say that, because of the widespread nature of the disease, it would take around 250,000 fish per year to fully meet the demand that exists for the medicine. Obviously, since there are only 40,000 such fish in existence and only 10,000 of them can be responsibly captured each year, the price of that medicine is going to be VERY high and only the extremely wealthy will be able to afford it.

If someone were to somehow capture all 40,000 fish, they would be able to find an immediate market for them at very high prices because the demand is larger than the supply. If that meant that the extinction of the species, would that be a problem? OF COURSE it would be a problem because a wonderful, lifesaving cure which once did exist no longer will exist. It would be a huge tragedy if such a species of fish went extinct - not because the fish no longer exist but because the people that future generations of the fish could have saved will not be saved and will die.

In a context where there are full and clearly defined property rights - for example, if the entire population of the fish lived in a privately owned natural lake - there would be very little danger that the extinction of such a valuable species of fish would be allowed to happen. Even if the owner of the lake had a sudden need to raise cash quickly, he would still have zero incentive to sell the entire supply of fish all at once in order to raise a quick buck. Since the fish population, if managed responsibly, is capable of yielding 10,000 fish per year, it would only take 5 years of responsible management to yield a greater return than irresponsibly selling all of the fish at once. For that reason, if the current owner of the lake had an immediate need to raise as much cash as possible, he would get a MUCH larger sum of money by selling the lake to someone who was prepared to invest in it in the long run than he would by selling off all the fish.

This is a prefect example of why, whenever it is at all possible, natural resources SHOULD be private property. The exploitation of all natural resources, especially self-renewing natural resources such as plants and animals, needs to be actively managed. Under a system of private property, the laws of supply and demand will ensure that the resource is actively managed in the most efficient and responsible manner possible.

Unfortunately, however, in our hypothetical example, the prontofish does NOT live in a privately owned lake. It exists only in the open ocean. Furthermore, it does not remain within a limited geographical area thereby making it impossible to erect fences or find some way to grant legal title to just the specific section of ocean in which the fish live. The prontofish swims to a northern climate at the end of winter to breed and hatch offspring and, at the end of summer, swims back thousands of miles to a much warmer climate.

For reasons that have already been mentioned, it would be highly desirable if the entire population of living prontofish could somehow become private property. But how does one accomplish that? And, once one determines how, by what method is one to determine exactly who has the moral right to be that property owner - keeping in mind that there are a great many people who would like to own the fish?

One can go on and on about how their ought to be a way for people to raise prontofish in captivity on private farms. But the reality of the situation is there isn't such a way. Prontofish die when they are removed from their natural habitat - and that is a fact that people have to acknowledge and deal with.

One can go on and on about how their ought to be a way to find some other source for the lifesaving medicine other than the prontofish - but there isn't such a way, which is a fact of reality that has to be acknowledged and dealt with.

There is another fact of reality in this example that one must acknowledge and deal with - prontofish are not very smart and are pretty easy to capture. And, because of the high demand for the medicine, the going market rate for a single prontofish is currently near a thousand dollars. Because of that, a great many fishermen and even people who merely own recreational boats, are out on the ocean trying to catch prontofish - so many people that there is a very real danger the fish will become nearly extinct in less than a year.

Is this a problem? Of course it is a problem - a lifesaving medicine is in very real danger of disappearing from the market for good. Why is there a problem? Because the lack of property rights in the open ocean make it impossible for the population of this very important species of fish to be responsibly managed in such a way to meet the long term market demand. Because nobody owns the ocean and nobody owns the uncaptured fish that are in it, anybody who wants to has an equally valid right to go out and try to catch prontofish - and they are doing just that. As a result of this lack of property rights, there is a disincentive for the population of fish to be responsibly managed. Because the supply is limited and because there are lots of people trying to catch the fish, the logical, and completely understandable mindset of a great many fishermen is going to be: "catch as many as you can before someone else catches them."

Basically what we have here is a private dispute between two camps of people who have in interest in capturing and using the fish. One camp in the dispute wants enough prontofish to remain in the wild each year so that they will be able to continue capturing prontofish year after year into the future. Would you say that the position of this camp is reasonable and rational? Of course it is. The other camp in the dispute wants to catch as many fish as they can so they can enjoy the wonderful things that they can buy with the money they will get from the fish. Would you say that the position of this camp is reasonable and rational? Of course it is. The problem, however, is both positions are irreconcilable. Either everyone gets to catch as many prontofish as they possibly can - or they can leave enough to ensure a supply next year. One may suggest that their ought to be some other alternative - but the reality is that there isn't.

How are the two sides to resolve their dispute short of resorting to force? They call in the government. Resolving private disputes - especially disputes over matters relating to rights of property - is the one of the central functions of a proper government.

In this instance, it is NOT the proper function of the government to somehow nationalize the prontofish population. Nor is it the proper function of the government to pick some politician's favorite deep-pocketed corporation as the sole owner of prontofish. The proper function of government is to identify and protect the rights of all persons who wish to acquire prontofish in exactly the same way it was the proper function of government to identify and protect the rights of all persons who wished to acquire land on the unowned open wilderness of the Old West.

Obviously, the most desirable thing the government could do is come up with some innovative and objectively valid way of placing the entire uncaptured prontofish population in the ocean under private ownership. If it is unable to find a way do so, then the next best thing would be to find an objectively valid process of effectively "homesteading" out the individual fish - i.e. to provide a legal process by which people may acquire property rights in prontofish by means of capturing them. And when coming up with such a process, it would be entirely reasonable and rational for the government to take cognizance of the metaphysical nature of prontofish and the conditions required for their continued survival and "homestead" out the capture of prontofish at the rate of 10,000 fish per year thereby ensuring a permanent supply.

Rights are contextual. The rules and principles to determine what a person's rights are in one unique context may not necessarily be applicable to determining what they are in some other context. That is why there is an entire field of highly specialized study devoted exclusively to identifying how rights apply to an infinitely wide variety of contexts: law. In law, philosophy and in life the proper starting point is NOT "what principles happen to be applicable here?" The proper starting point is always: What are the relevant facts of reality?

Imagine if, back when the government started to identify and define rights in the realm of intellectual productivity and in things such as radio frequencies, someone objected to the "creation" of these "new" rights on the basis of the principle that property rights can only exist in physical things. We would, of course, consider such a notion absurd. Sure, property rights can and do exist in physical things. But they can also exist in other contexts as well.

Rights are applicable and essential in any realm of endeavor where it is necessary to interact with other human beings. Since individuals can and do interact with each other on the open ocean and when they acquire resources such as ocean fish or transient wildlife, it is necessary for the specific rights of all parties in such contexts to be identified and defined accordingly. And there is only one institution that can properly identify and protect those rights: government.

To suggest that it is not possible or proper for the government to define and enforce individual rights in the realm of ocean fish and transient wildlife on grounds that such creatures are not domesticated on clearly demarcated plots of real estate is just as bizarre and invalid as it is to suggest that it is not possible or proper for the government to define and enforce individual rights in the realm of radio frequencies on grounds that it is impossible to physically touch, feel or smell the frequency. Both are examples of holding certain principles as out-of-context absolutes thereby blinding one to unique and different contexts and highly relevant facts of reality.

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Dismuke, you misunderstand. I'm not saying that the government shouldn't be involved. Or that it shouldn't solve this issue in terms that recognize the self-renewing nature of the population. Nor am I saying that if there actually existed such an untamable resource, that its nature must be ignored (only that I don't think such a thing actually exists).

What I am saying is that your proposal - that there exists a "right to potentially acquire" a resource - is not the correct way of achieving that recognition.

I am saying that in homesteading out the right to harvest a self-renewing but uncapturable population, it must respect all of the principles that you laid out... except for the invalid premise that there exists a "right to potentially acquire."

We are close to the answer here. That just isn't it.

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... except for the invalid premise that there exists a "right to potentially acquire."

But when I used the phrase "the right to potentially acquire" all I meant was that, in the context of hunting, there is always the chance that one might not be successful. My exact words were:

Now, the right of any given individual to potentially acquire ownership to specific types of wildlife depends in large part on the context of the particular situation. For example, the right to potentially acquire ownership in a deer (I say "potentially" because one may not be successful in actually capturing or shooting the deer - there are lots of hunters who return empty handed) is something which is limited exclusively to the owners of the particular parcels of property that the deer roam across. If you don't own land or if deer never wander across your land, you miss out on this particular right.

To acquire ownership in transient wildlife, one must kill, capture or tame it. If one fails to do so, the wild animal continues to exist in its wild state and not as property. Since, by its metaphysical nature, the animal does have a certain range of say-so in whether or not it allows itself to be killed, captured or tamed, there is no guarantee that that a given hunter will be able to do so. He has a right to acquire the animal - if he is sufficiently skilled at shooting and lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to come within clear shooting distance. That is all that I meant by qualifying the right to acquire as "potentially acquire."

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Dismuke, my concern is not merely that the word "potentially" is part of the right you claim exists.

Here is your statement:

Basically, there are two unique types of rights under discussion here.

The first involves the right of title which one has to one's property. That right is derived from whatever means one rightfully acquired the property - be it purchase, homesteading or gift...

There is no title to transient wildlife - it is merely something which exists.

The right to potentially acquire such transient wildlife is not a right of title but rather a freedom of action - much in the same way that you have a right to speak your mind or to move from one area of the country to another. The moral basis of this is the fact that you have a political right to do anything you like so long as it does not in some way violate the rights of another...

It is the third paragraph where the problems start. If I accept your premise, that there exists a right to transient wildlife - a right to potentially acquire it, that is - then how could it possibly be a freedom of action? Freedom of action only guarantees that one is not prevented from taking certain actions, not that those actions will result in acquiring values. You asked earlier where I got the idea that you were suggesting a guarantee of results. You qualified it with the word "potentially," but you were still proposing a right to a certain material value on the basis of freedom of action.

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I do not understand why there can be made a distinction between self-renewing resources and ones that do not renew at all (or so slowly it doesn't matter for our purposes)? I would argue that it is equally bad if all the oil runs out than if all the fish were to run out; or in other words it wouldn't really be a problem at all. Why are we assuming here that technology and new knowledge will not find a way to get past this?

Even if there existed such a fish as in your example, Dismuke, by the time we got to the point of making it extinct there would be different ways to produce the drug. I think all the fundamental arguments made against the "problem" of oil running out can be applied equally well against the "problem" of fish running out.

Once either resource runs out there is no more to be had, but I don't see why this is a problem at all. Unless we were to assume that human progress remains stagnant, but why would we do that? Research in genetics is going forward with huge leaps and it is already possible to produce most substances that exist in certain species in a different species, so it doesn't seem all that unlikely that we can do the same with hypothetical drug A from the fish you mentioned.

I mean, I would greatly prefer having bacteria produce the drug because then you could make it in practically unlimited quantities. It's just a matter of technical difficulties that need be overcome, there are no fundamental obstacles here...

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To acquire ownership in transient wildlife, one must kill, capture or tame it. If one fails to do so, the wild animal continues to exist in its wild state and not as property.

However, there is no such thing as a "right to the existence of unclaimed deer", which is what your idea of a "right to potentially acquire" presumes in a sideways fashion. You can't have a right to potentially acquire deer any more than you have a right to potentially acquire a flying car; does the failure of this flying car to exist constitute a violation of your rights? This would be precisely the same kind of "violation" that you would incur if deer fail to exist, even if they fail to exist because of the action of other human beings. If someone were to patent a flying car and then refuse to manufacture it (perhaps because they foresaw no profit from it), could you claim your right to potentially acquire a flying car as damages against this individual? No.

The fact that deer (or fish) existed prior to human intervention does not mean that you have a right to demand their continued existence, regardless of whether deer are self-renewing or not, regardless of whether deer are hunted to extinction by men, wolves, disease, or unusually cold weather. In all cases where someone names a right of this kind, I say: cry your demand to the universe and see what happens. Oh, it didn't provide you with a deerskin and a venison supper? Then it's not a right.

I fail to see how a potential right to acquire a thing (or a right to a potential thing) is any more firmly attached to reality than a "right" to an actual thing; heck, it may even be one step further away.

As for the fish problem and the "sufficiently large" area to enclose a fish population; you could solve this problem rapidly and easily by establishing the right, not to fish in an area, but to fish a specific type of fish. Then, you could go wherever that fish was without worrying about trespassing. As populations of specific types of fish decreased, it would take more and more effort (and thus cost more and more in terms of investment/capital outlays) to fish that type of fish, so people would be drawn to buy rights to less-often-fished fish. In fact, it wouldn't even necessarily have to be a license to fish specific fish, maybe just a license to SELL them; that way other people could still fish them, they'd just have to sell them to you or some other licensed purveyor if they wanted to do anything other than eat them.

How would you establish this system? Bidding and negotiation, with government as arbiter, not terms-setter. A simple system I can think of off the top of my head would be: the primary license goes to the highest bidder, and everyone else that wants a license to that type of fish has to buy a license from the primary. So, not only do you face the potential threat of having to pay a really high price for your license, which you'd then have to recoup out of revenue, but you'd actually be financing your competitor if you didn't manage to procure the primary license! (There are other ways to do this, I suppose, but this one struck me as being fairly poetic.)

A great deal of self-regulation is inherent in this system, as in every other kind of laissez-faire system of property rights. Bidding would be fierce for fish with high market-value; but the cost of the license would have to be recouped out of the final price of that fish. If the price of, say, salmon spiked abruptly, there would be a sudden drop in salmon purchases and fishermen that invested too much in salmon licenses would either have to seek profits in a different area or go out of business. The fluctuations in the market would naturally serve to keep fish populations more or less functioning, just like natural predator/prey cycles: when there's more fish and profits are easier to make, there will be more fishermen of that type of fish; as the fish become scarcer and profits drop, the fishermen will move elsewhere, giving that population a chance to recoup.

There may be disputes between countries about recognizing the licenses of each others' fishermen, but we have this problem now with patents, so I don't see that this is an argument specifically against my licensing idea. Worst-case-scenario: you may only be able to sell your fish in the country where you bought the license. Some other country might arrest you for doing something that's illegal in their country but not in your country, but this problem is prevalent already and there are diplomatic solutions.

So, how exactly is it impossible to establish property rights for wild fish, again? Looks to me like the only problem is lack of imagination.

Edited by JMeganSnow

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Oh, and as far as the concept "poaching" goes, it is a valid concept, being a more-strictly-delimited form of trespassing, indicating that not only did you trespass on someone's property, you also acquired some game there. However, you can't poach on "public" or unowned lands, only on someone's private property.

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It is the third paragraph where the problems start. If I accept your premise, that there exists a right to transient wildlife - a right to potentially acquire it, that is - then how could it possibly be a freedom of action? Freedom of action only guarantees that one is not prevented from taking certain actions, not that those actions will result in acquiring values.

Ummmm - I never said or even suggested that such actions would result in acquiring values. In fact, I very explicitly said the exact opposite - both in my very last posting as well as in a previous posting when I stated that hunters frequently return empty handed.

You asked earlier where I got the idea that you were suggesting a guarantee of results. You qualified it with the word "potentially," but you were still proposing a right to a certain material value on the basis of freedom of action.

Of course one has a right to gain values on such a basis. If a material value does not exist as property, then under the vast majority of instances, taking that material value does not involve the violation of another person's rights. It does not involve the violation of anyone's rights because nobody owns it. If an action does not violate another person's rights, then a person has the freedom to take that action. This is a point which is completely non-controversial to Objectivism.

You are making a HUGE deal out of three words "freedom of action" that I merely used in passing in response to a question you asked. To answer your question, it was necessary to contrast the very specific, already enumerated and highly derivative rights that one has with regard to private property to which one has legally recognized title verses the significantly more general right to act according to one's own independent judgment, which is the basis from which all of our other more specific rights are derived. I used the words "freedom of action" to describe this general right to act according to one's judgment because, in the context at hand, it is an apt description - one which is completely non-controversial to Objectivism and, therefore, one which I did not feel required a great deal of elaboration, especially since my postings on the subject are already rather lengthy.

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I do not understand why there can be made a distinction between self-renewing resources and ones that do not renew at all (or so slowly it doesn't matter for our purposes)?

Is such a distinction really so very difficult for you to grasp? :thumbsup:

With a resource that does not renew, once the resource has been used, it is GONE - which means there will be no more. Ever.

With a resource that does renew, so long as one allows a sufficient amount to remain in existence, you will get MORE. If not, NOT.

If you have twelve cubic yards of a precious mineral on your property, once you have gathered up and disposed of those 12 cubic yards of minerals, you property will be out of minerals. They will GONE - forever. Your only choice is to use them up now, use them up later or just leave them there. Once they are gone, you have no choice - they are GONE.

If you alone happen to have sole ownership to a sub species of corn which is vastly superior in every respect to all other varieties of corn in existence, so long as you set aside and save a certain portion of your harvest as seed for subsquent years, you will have MORE corn - lots more corn - year after year. If, on the other hand, however, you turn the entirety of your harvest into cornbread - well, you are screwed because the resource will be gone and there will be no more.

I would argue that it is equally bad if all the oil runs out than if all the fish were to run out; or in other words it wouldn't really be a problem at all.
OF COURSE it is a problem. With regard to oil, it is only a question of when oil runs out and there is no more left to discover and drill. (and, if the oil exists as property, that "when" will be postponed by the free market to whatever degree it makes sense). To assert it is not a big deal to forever run out of a highly valuable species of fish when it is renewable - well, I am afraid that is simply bizarre and completely at odds with reality.

Why are we assuming here that technology and new knowledge will not find a way to get past this?

Because it is necessary for one's assumptions to be based on the facts of reality - NOT on one's desire to make reality conform to one's preexisting worldviews, opinions and principles. If one is gong to assert that technology and new knowledge will solve a problem, one must be able to point to SPECIFIC FACTS to suggest that such technology and knowledge will be forthcoming - not might be forthcoming.

Even if there existed such a fish as in your example, Dismuke, by the time we got to the point of making it extinct there would be different ways to produce the drug.
Oh, so you can see into the future? I'll bet you could make a killing on Wall Street.

How do you know that there will be different ways to produce a specific drug? What specific FACTS can you point to to suggest that someone WILL be able to find additional ways to produce a specific drug? The fact that it is possible that people might discover different ways and that people in the past have discovered alternative ways of making things does not constitute proof that people WILL make such a discovery in any given future specific instance. To make such an assertion, one has to provide evidence - i.e. specific relevant facts of reality. Merely making reference to other ideas, theories and opinions which happen to be floating around in one's skull does not cut it.

I mean, I would greatly prefer having bacteria produce the drug because then you could make it in practically unlimited quantities. It's just a matter of technical difficulties that need be overcome, there are no fundamental obstacles here...

Well, your "preference" is utterly IRRELEVANT unless you have specific EVIDENCE that such technical details WILL be overcome.

I am afraid that the entirety of your posting is a classic example of what I was talking about when I said earlier in this thread that it is not the task of reality to conform to one's ideas and principles. The entire approach of the posting has been an attempt to discount facts of reality and rewrite them based on one's hopes so that everything will very nicely conform to one's pre-existing views. Your pre-existing views may be based on Objectivist principles - but the approach of applying them is profoundly flawed and, is, in fact, a highly rationalistic religious sort of approach.

There is a course offered by Dr. Peikoff that you might want to consider looking into if you can afford to do so. I have not taken the course personally - but, based on the course description, it does address the specific flawed approach that I have mentioned. You can read the course description at: http://www.aynrandbookstore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=LP53M

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