[OPE-L] Surfing relations and private property

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Aug 24 2006 - 15:36:23 EDT

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the comment. Of course this type of article is a bit
metaphorical, but it caught my eye because I hadn't thought of the
possibility of asserting property rights to waves in the sea, it seems just
as ludicrous as people staking claims to outer space! Of course, one would
not think of it as a property issue in the first instance, more a question
of territoriality, the fight over territory.

One of the questions that preoccupies me at times is the limits to
privatisation, i.e. at what point does the privatisation go so far that only
social disintegration occurs. But the deeper question is the conditions in
which public property can be equitably shared, an "ethic" of use and how you
promote such an ethic. It links also to the theme of scarcity - there is
real scarcity, and then there is perceived scarcity (the ideology of
scarcity such as in economics or certain environmentalisms). Even if there
is abundance, this still does not remove fights over territoriality.

In New Zealand (where I lived a long time) there was a political controversy
about the coastline recently. New Zealand's parliament passed a law 18 Nov
2004 making its coastline public property - a move protested by indigenous
Maori who claimed the 160-year-old Waitangi treaty puts much of the coast
under their control. The government said the legislation protects public
access to beaches, while granting Maori "customary use" of their ancestral
areas on the coast, such as fishing and gathering shellfish. The law
nationalizing New Zealand's coastline passed in a 66 to 53 vote. In May
2004, more than 20,000 protesters marched to parliament to denounce the
legislation. Some tribes claimed the new law blocks their plans to set up
lucrative fish-farming ventures along parts of the coast.

In his discussion of the proper role of the state (Free to Choose), Milton
Friedman wavers on the issue - he cites Adam Smith to the effect that the
cost of toll collection on roads could be prohibitive (of course that could
now be automated to an extent). He ignores the question of freedom of
movement and the ability of the user to pay. The interesting part is of
course where privatisation/marketisation undermines basic freedoms by
shutting out anybody unable to pay.

The big slogan in New Zealand in the 1980s was "the user pays principle" -
but the illiberal implication is that if you cannot pay, then you cannot
use. This is another aspect of the use-value/exchange-value dialectic... The
real thrust of the user pays principle was, to eradicate the subsidiary
(redistributive) principle which, it is argued, creates too much complexity
and bureaucracy. This contrasts sharply with e.g. the Netherlands where I
live now, where you still have a lot of subsidization, and the largest
nonprofit sector in Western Europe. Traditionally, the subsidiary principle
is the material basis of social reformism, i.e. the ability to levy taxes
and redistribute wealth. Basically, the social indicators for countries
which do subsidise considerably are better than for societies that don't,
but of course the wealthier a society is, the easier it is to subsidize.

I'm not much of a surfie really, though because of my interest in long-wave
research one time I got labelled a surfie. Most of the surfing I do is on
the net. Real surfing is an art that isn't so easy to master...


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Aug 31 2006 - 00:00:03 EDT