The Man Who Would Own Eros

I will never forget my college political philosophy professor mocking John Locke's attempt to ground the foundations of property on the admixture of labor or property to unclaimed resources by asking whether, were he to legitimately acquire a can of tomato paste and pour it into the ocean, he could therefore claim the ocean as his own.

Think that's silly? How about Gregory Nemitz of Carson City, Nevada, who claims to own Eros, and wants NASA to pay him $20 for “parking and storage fees” now that it has landed the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft on “his” asteroid. Basically, the basis of Nemitz's claim to ownership of Eros is, well, that he claims to own it, and that he's expending resources to pursue the claim, so it must be his. Oh yes, and that the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1967, which precludes private ownership of celestial bodies, sounds in the Communist Manifesto, so it must be illegal.

This would be funny if the guy were not (it seems) funded by the sale of beef jerky (I am not making this up, see the bottom of his web site), and appealing (pro se) the loss of his district court case up to the 9th Circuit. Where I confidently predict he will lose again.

(The words “sui juris” on his brief are by the way a giveaway that the appellant is in the grip of a legal cult, akin to the common law court cultists, or the people who think that writing “Without Prejudice UCC 1-207” will somehow have a magic effect on their debts, or who think that they can avoid paying taxes by eschewing Social Security numbers and claiming to be just a state citizen not a citizen of the US.)

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One Response to The Man Who Would Own Eros

  1. Phill says:

    This is where US courts are at a real disadvantage to the UK. In the UK any property that is not the property of anyone else is by default considered the property of the crown. There is a real advantage to dealing with fruitcakes under the UK scheme since nobody makes any claim to the constitution being rational, fair or anything of that sort.

    At the end of the day the only justification you get for the existence of power in the UK scheme is that 300 odd years ago we replaced a syphilitic King and his alliance with a French king notortious for religious persecution with a bisexual Dutch king, a constitutional monarchy and a war with France. you might well find a loophole if you try hard – but the result is more likely to be that you find that the state can have you chained to an oar as a galley slave or something of that sort.

    As for Eros, as far as the US is concerned it clearly belongs to the British crown since 1) Newton invented gravity thus being the first person who could make the claim to have added his labor etc. as a subject of the British crown any territorial claims of Newton would go to the crown, 2) the US only claimed independence from the Britain, it did not make any claim to sovereignty over any other British territory and 3) under the terms of the settlement of the war of 1812 the USA agreed to waive all claims to British territories.

    If you take Locke to the loony lengths of the original piece then it looks pretty clear that the UK crown was in a position to cede rights to Eros (and the rest of the universe) under the UN treaty on space.

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