Monday, May 24, 2010

On BP's Property Rights To The Ocean

Who owns the oceans? Who owns the wild animals? Who owns the right not to be poisoned by oil? Who owns the right to find out what is happening?

What I get from the coverage of the oil catastrophe is that the British Petroleum has powers far beyond what it should have. It appears to have all sorts of property rights: the right to keep journalists away, the right not to give good information on what is happening, the right to manage the ocean.

But I bet you anything that when it comes to covering the costs of all the destruction the BP will suddenly have no property obligations whatsoever.

Someone (sorry, can't remember who) pointed out that if terrorists had broken the oil pipe we'd have a very different reaction to the same level of damage.

If there's any useful lesson from this utter horror it is that we are giving corporations powers of the type only countries usually have and that this is not a good idea.