Libertarian Property and the Dubai Ports
In this particular case, we’re not even really talking about private property, but public property. The Dubai Ports deal, you see, involves the buyout of a foreign (British) company already operating these ports by another foreign company (owned by the UAE government). We’re talking about a change of operators, rather than owners. The purported (legal) owners on paper of each of these ports, as I understand it, are the various municipal governments they are located in. We don’t have to bother considering whether or not each company is or isn’t “private property” because what concerns people about this deal is the role of port operator at these ports. Who fulfills that role and why? Who decides it?
What we have in this case, for those with eyes to see and minds to perceive, is an example of the problems that arise from confusing “public property” with “government property”....
The city governments in those cities pretend to own those ports. In reality, the rightful owners are the residents of each of the port cities, the workers who work there and the companies who do business there — but that last only to the extent those companies are not aligned with the interests of the state, which is somewhat rare.
It is through this usurpation of the peoples property rights in those ports that the question of whether the Dubai ports deal is good or bad management of the ports has been removed from the people and placed in the hands of government, which in addition to not being ethically eligible to make such decisions is not competent to do so either.
The real solution to this problem, and future repetitions of it, is for the people to organize to assert their joint ownership of the property in question independent of any government.
Alternative arrangements might be to treat the ports as common property, or to place them in possession of joint stock companies owned by some combination of the residents, the workers, and the companies operating through them. Brad prefers the latter. I myself can see a combination of the ideas, treating the port itself as common property of the local residents, like a town square or a right of way, with the residents contracting the operation of the port to some form of stakeholder cooperative (with joint representation by the port workers' syndicate, the shipping companies, and locals).