Monday, July 21, 2014

Homesteading Independence

Practically speaking, I can't pull oil out of the ground, and things like mineral rights are a convention of our government's interpretation of property rights. The homesteading concept of property rights seems to suggest the property is what is homesteaded. In most cases, that means the surface of the land, wells, etc... When air travel became the rage, the courts sort of rudely decided upon some arbitrary rules so that airlines wouldn't have to deal with individual land owners. This is considered a violation of the homesteading principles, since particular farmers, for instance, could prove the planes flying overhead were causing damage to their livestock. So this is the government saying some damages against others are acceptable, if they like your sort of business enough. People don't like corporations being considered people in this country, but what we should be upset about is how often they are considered better than people.

Anyway, the flip side of this argument is that you can very reasonably assume that, despite the grand tradition of mineral rights and such, that one could assume that as long as the current homesteaded properties of the people aren't damaged in any way, whoever can do so has the right to do so.

So, I can see a framework for understanding property that would allow a people looking for independence to sweet talk the multinationals and let them take a lot of oil out of the ground while also allowing for the local shop owner's property rights to be protected. The danger is that once a deal is in place, if the multinationals do damage someone else's property, will appropriate restitution be made, or will excuses, like the excuses made for the airline industry become law?

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