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Economic Foundations of the Law of the Sea


Publication Date: 
December 16, 2009
Working Paper
Bibliography: Eric A. Posner and Alan O. Sykes, Economic Foundations of the Law of the Sea, Chicago and Stanford John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper no. 504 (2d series) (December 2009).


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has a plausible economic logic. Jurisdiction over portions of the ocean is assigned to states which can regulate them most cheaply and value them the most. These jurisdictional rights are subject to limits that reflect the interests of other states in navigation and other uses of the seas. For the vast areas of the ocean that no state can regulate, the Convention provides for an open access regime subject to simple rules, mostly self-enforcing, to limit conflict over resources.