UN Sea Treaty Brings ‘Tragedy of the Commons’

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Richard Morrison, 202.331.2273



Washington, D.C., February 18, 2004—A treaty giving the United Nations massive new tax and regulatory powers is being considered by the Senate and Bush administration. 


Statement by CEI President Fred L. Smith, speaking at a press conference with other free market leaders:


I’m Fred Smith and I head CEI, a pro-market activist policy group.  I’m here to urge that America reject this treaty which would sacrifice U.S. sovereignty, grant the U.N. unprecedented taxing authority, and place 2/3 of the world’s surface forever off-limits to the peoples of the world. 


This Treaty is proposed as a solution to a vast resource—the oceans of the world – that now provides no benefits to the peoples of the world.  Unfortunately, if the Law of the Seas Treaty is ratified, it will only perpetuate and exacerbate that problem.  Let me explain:


The Constitution of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States built the framework to transform the American continent from a “vast commons” into a whole nation based on freedom and property rights, two rights that cannot be separated.  America was a nation of few people living poorly in the midst of great potential.  The Constitution liberated that potential by encouraging the rapid transfer of land into private hands – private property, the rule of law, the encouragement of entrepreneurial activity.  The Constitution encouraged institutional changes to solve the “tragedy of the commons.”  American became the freest, wealthiest, and fairest nation in the world.


The Law of the Sea Treaty would take us in the opposite direction, back to a tragedy of the commons.  The treaty is a plan based on discredited theories of collectivism that are in retreat throughout the world.  Rather than encourage homesteading — the dispersion of control to national and individual control — this treaty would forever block private ownership of the two-thirds of the earth that remain undeveloped commons.