Arctic leaders talk in Russia about tapping riches without ruining environment
The nations of the world are right to discuss opening the Arctic to economic development without threats of national conflict. Austrian economic theory points the way. Previously untapped resources become the sole property of the first to bring them to market. In his Second Treatise on Government John Locke explained that man has the right to property ownership in any previously untapped resource via "mixing one's labor" with it. Austrian economists call this the homesteading principle. Therefore, the Arctic should become a free economic zone, and property rights should accrue to whichever individual, company, or country homesteads it. The benefits that will accrue to the citizens of the world are the same regardless of who brings the product to market. It is important that the new owners obtain complete ownership of the resource so that they will capitalize it for the long term rather than simply exploit it for temporary gain. Any homesteader may, of course, transfer his ownership rights to anyone else at any time. Plus, any owner loses his right to the property if he abandons it; then the property becomes available to the next homesteader. The homesteader may rightfully claim ownership only to the property that he can work. He may not claim the entire Arctic or even a large part of it without working it.