On The Origin Of Commons: Understanding Divergent State Preferences Over Property Rights In New Frontiers

Sanger, Catherine, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Legro, Jeffrey, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, University of Virginia

This article examines variation in property rights regimes in the international system. Specifically, it asks why states maintain open access and common property rights in some international frontiers, e.g. outer space, while asserting exclusive jurisdiction in others, e.g. air space. To explore the origins of these divergent outcomes I develop two alternative lenses for explaining state preferences over property rights in new frontiers, and to illustrate the value of this framework apply it to the high seas, air space, outer space, and antarctica. I find that, contrary to conventional understanding, international property rights are contested political institutions, not environmental inevitabilities. States pursue national or common ownership in response to geopolitical considerations, specifically the distribution of power and interstate rivalry, not the nature of the frontier environment.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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