Unintended Consequences

Dave Killion — December 9, 2010

It is reported that a 49-year-old woman from Spain has registered her ownership of the Sun with a local notary public, and desires to charge a fee on those who make use of it.  This fee is to be divided amongst the Spanish government, the nation’s pension fund, research, world hunger, and herself.  According to the article, the woman claims that she is not stupid, and that she knows the law.  I’m not so sure.  The Sun may fit the definition of a public good, but there are no free-rider problems nor tragedy-of-the-commons problems, so there are no grounds for forced payment.  Plus if she owns it, that makes it a private good.  And if it’s a private good, then even if she can’t collect for the benefits ‘her’ Sun provides, she can certainly be held liable for the damage it causes.  I imagine after a class-action suit from some melanoma sufferers, some heat stroke victims, and a few farmers who have lost their crops to heat, she will be pretty quick to relinquish her claim.

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