Underground Commons

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Jorge Buzaglo:

"Most governments use different types of taxes, royalties and license fees (ground rents) in order to capture part of the rent produced. In most countries oil is a collectively owned resource, and underground resources in general are prima facie considered as belonging to the commonwealth. This fact, reflected by most national legislations, suggests that underground resources are naturally seen as the common property of the commonwealth. What is not reflected in most natural resource legislations is the legal consequence of collective ownership, i.e., equal allocation of dividends.

There is no internationally agreed and accepted concept of legitimacy when it comes to the property of the vast amounts of wealth which happen to be beneath the soil where a particular person or group of persons happen to be. As in the case of the atmosphere, the only stable, legitimate distribution of property rights for underground resources is the common property of all. Both the logic of conflict and the human moral imperative reflected in most ethical traditions suggest the equal rights solution. Natural resources should be owned by all humankind, and managed for the common good of present and future generations. ‘All humankind’ should mean democratic, transparent, accountable power elected by all. Until such a power might be formed, a global foundation with clear mandate, power and accountability could be a transitional solution. For the use of natural resources (including land, as in the old Spinoza proposal), users should pay a rent (or tax, or quota rights) substracting the part of value added not contributed by labour or entrepreneurship, that is, the part which corresponds to natural differential productivity, and representing the ‘productivity’ of Nature, to be appropriated by the global commonwealth. It is important to include as a fundamental part of the scheme that, reflecting the global ownership of natural resources, the proceeds or dividends should accrue equally to all." (http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue51/Buzaglo51.pdf)