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Libertarian perspectives on natural resources

Libertarian controversy regarding natural resources, (especially land).

Some libertarians view the use of natural resources by one person as a limitation on the equal rights of others to use natural resources. In the extreme case, where unclaimed land is not available, the existence of absolute property in land is a denial of the right to life since all persons require land in order to live. These libertarians view landowners as practically equivalent to the state.

Others believe that all rights emerge from absolute property rights and that property rights must apply to all material items. A limitation on the right to absolutely own something as fundamental as land is incompatible with libertarianism in their view.

Many classical liberals (Locke, Paine, Jefferson) recognized that absolute ownership of natural resources could deprive liberty, but avoided the issue in practice due to the great amounts of unsettled land that their societies had access to. The idea that landed property is incompatible with liberty and is simply an act of state power is also common to many anarchists.

Some libertarians believe that property is on one's work based on resources, and never on the resources themselves, so that there is actually no problem of unjust hoarding of resources: if someone else can reuse the "same" resource without harming the previous "owner"'s work, then there is no conflict, and the previous "owner" has no claim (example: if I traverse your land with electromagnetic waves from radio broadcast or sight of a nearby building, I'm not interfering with your crops, so you have no claim against me. Whereas if I were walking on your land and treading on your crops, you would have a valid claim against me.) Though natural resources exist, what gives value to them is the work of men, and those who create this value legitimately own it, whereas by the very nature of a free society, they do not own the utility of these resources that otherwise benefit everyone. See the relevant chapter of Frederic Bastiat's Economic Harmonies [1] (http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basHar9).



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