Although American ratification of the LOST would not be enough to resurrect the NIEO, it would subject the United States to the treaty’s restrictive regulatory regime and enshrine in international law some very ugly precedents. One is that the nation–states (not peoples) of the world collectively own all the unclaimed wealth of this earth. Granting ownership and control to petty autocracies that have no relationship to the resources and no ability to contribute anything to their development makes neither moral nor prac- tical sense. Much better on both counts is the simple Lockean notion that mixing one’s labor with resources—by developing complex machinery capable of scouring the ocean floor, for instance—grants one a property interest in them.
The Lockean standard would better suit the interests of developing peoples. The LOST may purport to promote international justice, fairness, and cooperation, but, in fact, it advances none of those things. Rather, it rais- es to the status of international law self-indul- gent claims of ownership to be secured through an oligarchy of international bureau- crats, diplomats, and lawyers. And the treaty’s specific provisions still mandate global redistribution of resources, create a monopolistic public mining entity, restrict competition, and require the transfer of technology. Those principles, even in the attenuated form of the revised treaty, reflect the sort of statist panaceas that were discredited by the historical wave that swept away Soviet-style communism.