GUEST COLUMN: Conservatives Should Support Law of the Sea

Nov 20, 2012

Photograph: PDPhoto.org.

We are now suffering the consequences of very bad policies — real per-capita income is down, unemployment is high, and job creation is stalled. A week after President Obama’s reelection, we get news that jobless claims have spiked to 439,000, and there are 50 million Americans living in poverty. Who is to blame? Democrats gave us Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and failed stimulus, and Republicans gave us Sarbanes-Oxley. All of these bad policy ideas have killed job growth.

Americans are hoping for remedies for our economic troubles, but are fearful that Washington does not have a clue about how to restore our nation’s economic health. Slow growth and joblessness are threatening our prosperity and putting the American dream at risk.

If lawmakers want to help accelerate America's recovery from recession, the U.S. Senate should vote immediately to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). Its purpose is to establish a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans. As conservatives fully understand, property rights and the rule of law are essential for the free market to work. LOST provides property rights protection and establishes the rule of law for the use of the world's oceans, which cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface. Simply put, LOST’s guarantee of property rights and legal protections will make the inherently risky endeavor of working and mining the intercontinental shelf more attractive to American entrepreneurs and American industry. Yet, conservatives — in an ironic twist as Ronald Reagan supported LOST — have worked to derail ratification on the misguided idea that the treaty undermines U.S. sovereignty.

The United States has yet to ratify LOST, however we live under the treaty’s rules while not fully enjoying the treaty’s protections and benefits. We have abided by the treaty’s terms since the Reagan Administration, but cannot secure our rightful claims unless the treaty is ratified by the U.S. Senate. Once LOST is ratified, the United States will experience the greatest expansion of marine resource sovereignty in our history, including extending up to 600 miles beyond Alaska’s continental shelf — three times the current 200-mile limit. The U.S. will have a permanent seat — with veto power — on the international body that currently regulates access to ocean mineral resources in international waters. And, the United States will enjoy the property and legal protections that ensure access to enormous natural wealth, including abundant oil and natural gas resources, vast mineral deposits, and prolific fisheries.

It is for these reasons that the United States Chamber of Commerce and every major sector of the American economy support Law of the Sea. It is the treaty’s explicit protection of property rights that have moved rock-solid, free-market advocates like the Institute for Liberty’s (IFL) Andrew Langer to support ratification. IFL is the leading group on the Right calling for conservatives to support LOST. Langer has written that “Property rights, strongly protected, allow for people to invest in what they own (or, in some cases, lease). Without those protections, self-investment becomes a risky proposition at best.” Langer further argues that the treaty’s strong framework of property rights gives entrepreneurs the certainty to make their investments.

Just as it was once common knowledge that the world was flat, and that the universe revolved around the Earth, much of the opposition to LOST is founded on false assumptions and myths.

Unfortunately some of my friends on the right, such as folks at the Heritage Foundation, oppose LOST because they wrongly believe it will deliver control of the world’s oceans and U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations. To the contrary, LOST will unleash American entrepreneurship, facilitate economic growth, and protect our national sovereignty. Law of the Sea will help hasten America's recovery because it opens up new opportunities for American job creators and innovators.

The health of America’s economy relies upon American entrepreneurs being able to obtain capital, expand research, take risks, and hire people while bringing new products to market. Here’s what lawmakers and the president need to do right now in the lame-duck session to support these entrepreneurs:  pass meaningful market-based policies like ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty.

The good news is that Americans know how to create jobs and advance economic liberty. We did it in the 1980s under the watch of President Reagan, and we can do it again. Let’s start by ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Jerry Rogers is president of Capitol Allies and founder of the Six Degrees Project, an independent, nonpartisan effort that promotes entrepreneurship, economic growth, and free-market ideas.

Originally published on RealClearPolicy.

 

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