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[Fwd: Re: Fossil Ownership]


I sent this reply to Mr. Stephenson, then realized that I'd really 
benefit from the responses of paleontologists to this analysis, so here 
it is . . .
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Roger A. Stephenson wrote:
> Hello all,. . .  Would it please you to see a law passed to make all
> subsurface oddities property of the state, regardless of prior
> rights?

Yes.  Let's not be so dogmatic about this.  It's simply a matter of 
defining property rights.  A federal statute declaring that fossils are 
of special interest to the people of the United States and thus subject 
to certain limitations on alienation is entirely feasible, and even 
today's Rightist Supreme Court would probably not bother to hear a case 
based on such a statute.  The statute would simply prohibit free 
alienation of the fossil other than to eligible institutions, which could 
be certified as "eligible" based on certain objective criteria.  The 
fossil would then be assigned a number and the institution would give 
notice to the government whenever the fossil changed ownership (and, of 
course, the new owner would also need to be an eligible institution). 
This is done every day with certain securities not registered under the 
Securities Act of 1933; they get a number and institutional investors 
(insurance companies) can trade them them back and forth as long as 
they're not sold to unsophisticated investors (you and me).

Within that framework, there's no reason why the landowner could not sell 
the fossil to any eligible institution.  This satisfies both the right of 
the people of the United States to enjoy full use of the fossils, and 
your own concerns for capitalist enterprise.

> Why not go one small step further and revoke all property rights? 

I don't think that's necessary to protect a valuable bit of American 
history (or, should I say, prehistory).


Larry Dunn

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