Richard Epstein, ‘Property Rights in Water, Spectrum, and Minerals’

Abstract:
This essay compares the system of property rights that are in use for land, water, minerals, and spectrum. Each of these systems of property rights is intended to coordinate the activities of large numbers of individuals who are unable to contract among themselves for an arrangement that secures optimal resource use. The solutions that are appropriate vary heavily with the nature of the resource involved, so that the paradigm of exclusive use associated with land fits imperfectly with both mineral rights and the spectrum, but does work well with water rights, which vary immensely with the environment in which they are found. The allocation of rights in question are important not only for resolving private disputes, but should in principle set the ground rules which govern the rules for determining when the government owes compensation for its actions that take or regulate the use of the various forms of private rights.

Richard Epstein, Property Rights in Water, Spectrum, and Minerals. University of Colorado Law Review Volume 86 Issue 2 (2015).

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