Philosophy Colloquium
John Simmons
University of Virginia
To the Center of the Earth: States' Rights to Resources

This paper explores the nature of and possible justifications for the property-like claims that contemporary nation-states make over things associated with or comprising their particular geographical territories. Modern states, of course, claim legal jurisdiction over particular areas of the earth’s surface, claiming in the process authority over persons located within those areas. But in addition to such jurisdictional rights (“of control”), states also claim rights that more closely resemble the kinds of claims to landownership made by individuals. These property-like (“exclusionary”) rights include the right to control the borders of the territory, as a landowner has the right to fence or otherwise exclude others from entering or using her land. And relative to those borders, states also make property-like claims over the non-human, physical stuff in, around, and comprising their areas – the things often referred to as “natural resources”. These rights emanate from, but are not confined to, the surface shapes of states that we draw on maps and globes. States claim rights not only to a bounded surface and to the things on it – the land and surface water themselves, the timber, plants, and animals found there – but also to what lies beneath that surface – the rocks and dirt, the metals and minerals, the oil, gas, and water – and to what is located above and around their surface shapes. The paper asks: what arguments might be offered in favor of such claimed rights and to what extent are those arguments persuasive.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
3:30pm

Taliaferro 1103