Greg Swann makes some nice comments with regard to my pursuit of a pilot certificate.

Then, in what might be too esoteric a discussion for some (but doesn’t bother me), he suggests that the way airspace has been allocated constitutes a theft (broadcasting, too).

I’m not sure I would go that far, at least as a general statement. For instance, while it’s clear that buzzing someone’s house, or flying only a few hundred feet above is an usurpation of their property (not to mention peace of mind), how about at 39,000 feet, where you’ll be hard pressed to even have any idea whether the airplane is actually flying through the imaginary space of your property extending vertically? And if that’s usurpation, then where does it end? How about satellites orbiting earth? Well, they aren’t in the air. Yea, but you can’t own the air (otherwise, the wind and convection currents would be in a constant state of transferring property between everyone). you can potentially only own the space, so why wouldn’t it extend past the atmosphere? If we’re talking space, then limiting the claim to the atmospheric boundary (which is not a discreet demarcation, by the way) makes the claim arbitrary.

How about 1,000 feet? 5,000 feet? 10,000? Who knows?

But it seems obvious to me that, in a society based solely on consent, with zero
resorts to force to resolve disputes, Richard’s available airspace
would would be much circumscribed. And broadcasting would not exist at

And that’s really the essence of this whole thing. Whether my airspace would be more circumscribed than it already is (which is substantial, by the way), or whether broadcasting would or would not exist is really not the point. Force is the point. The state is the agent of that force. So, when some people want something, they get a bunch of other people together and lobby government to give it to them–by force. If there was no force involved, then, of course, there would be no "reason" to employ the state. You’d simply persuade others to cooperate with you in a manner that you will hopefully demonstrate causes no damage or significant risk to them (both of which could be mitigated by insurance), or, even better, is a mutual benefit.

But, usually, people employ the state, because:

  1. They don’t want to bear the full costs and risks of their "project"; and/or,
  2. Their "project" actually harms others in meaningful ways, so their cooperation can’t be secured voluntarily. As such you "need" the state to force them into submission (with death being the penalty for unyielding defiance).

But initiation-of-force theory has its limitations, too. How about when I yell into the house, "sweets, can you bring me the BBQ sauce?" and the noise disturbs my neighbors? I’ve sent sound-waves into their environment and usurped their peace. How about when I walk outside at night, hit the switch and send photons of light darting across their space at 186,000 miles per second?

So, clearly, there are categories of technical force-initiation that we all more or less find acceptable as social beings living amongst other people. We all deem the minor inconveniences or annoyances to be insufficient to keep us from living in close proximity to one-another where the overall benefits are clear and substantial.

I think this all can be relatively easily worked out under the longstanding principle of easement, which predates the state. Nowadays, easements are agreements that make up parts of property deeds that are filed with the county (or equivalent state agency in other countries). But before the state, people worked this all out by themselves in various ways. Had broadcasting and flight been invented prior to the modern state, I’m quite certain that the principle of easement would have come into play and everyone would have worked things out.

As it is, there was no such opportunity. Far easier to simply gather compliance via force.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Walter E. Wallis on July 18, 2005 at 05:35

    Property rights ultimately require a fence. 35,000 foot fence and a Faraday's cage, anyone?

  2. Kyle Bennett on July 18, 2005 at 20:35

    "Traffic laws are a great example, being a reaction to too many cars colliding."

    Hmmm… And here I thought they were a reaction to too many people getting all the way through town without contributing to the local economy.

  3. John Spain on July 18, 2005 at 13:42

    Wouldn't the property rights belong to the one in the airplane since he got there first (assuming no fence.) Same thing with the broadcast, since its more a frequency than a thing (if I remember rightly.) If I don't really even know that there are such things as frequencies running through the volume of my stuff, can I claim the rights to them?

  4. Richard Nikoley on July 18, 2005 at 22:29

    Bad and subjective laws are exercised both preemptively and in reaction.

  5. Random Personae on July 18, 2005 at 20:05

    One of the greatest misconceptions of law that leads the thoughtless to the conclusion that it is some evil force that seeks to rob us of their freedom is that law is preemptive when it is really reactionary (in a democratic society). Traffic laws are a great example, being a reaction to too many cars colliding.

  6. lisa on July 18, 2005 at 14:07

    this blog looks really good.

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