Re: Re: Abstract forms of property

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 13:35:58 -0800

T.0. Morrow wrote:
>>It seems to me a bit of an abstract stretch to say that if one induced any
>>form of radiation on one's property, one therefore had implicit absolute
>>perpetual rights to to use all forms of radiation, including say neutrinos,
>>gravitons, Higgs particles, etc.
>...It makes little sense to say
>that the FCC has no claim over *one* frequency of radiation
that I use solely
>on my property . . . while it does over another frequency . . . .

Consider the analogy of altitude. Just because people have long had control over the space a few meters above and below the ground, does that imply that they have absolute rights to the space hundreds or thousands of kilometers above and below the ground? By the same argument you make against spectrum rights granted by the FCC it would seem you should complain that the FAA granted airplanes the right to fly high above ground properties

>>Then by your preferred approach, unless you are one of the original
>>people you claim the FCC stole these spectrum rights from, you seem
>>to have no standing to complain. We all seem to accept that the FCC
>>seems to be in "possession" of these spectrum rights. You just
>>accuse them of having stole them from someone else.
>No, that confounds two separate lines of argument. Recall that I have
>throughout argued *against* establishing property rights in the spectrum. The
>good title rule thus does not apply (I raised it only in an attempt to clarify
>a point of law). When you buy real property, you do not get *title* to the
>spectrum used thereon. You get the right to use chattles such as transmitters
>and recievers in any manner whatsoever so long as you do not interefere with
>your neighbors' like uses.

I'm not sure what you mean by "establish." Would you object if people who owned property of the form you approve of wanted to contract to redivide their property, creating "property" in spectrum in the process? Hal had a recent post where he elaborated this sort of scenario. Would you seek to prevent the enforcement of such contracts? If not, you would seem to accept the concept of this sort of property, and we're just back the question of whether we got to that point without someone stealing something from someone else.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884