What Surfing Can Teach You about Ownership

To understand ownership, it helps to understand something about surfing. Surfers employ a system of ownership over waves so that everyone gets a turn. Prof. Dan Russell describes a scenario in which three friends are surfing but none wants to be selfish. As a result, the good waves pass by and no one has a good time. If they had prescribed a system of ownership instead, they would all have their turn to the waves. Among people who are not friends, a lack of ownership often leads to pushing and shoving. People who want peace need to instead determine whose wave is whose—or who owns property.

Although many people conflate ownership with selfishness, this is not accurate. Ownership plays an important role in a functional society for several reasons:

–          Ownership allows for more creativity and enables us to do the things we want to do.

–          Ownership puts a check on selfishness and greed because it gives the owner the right to say no. This also makes conservation possible.

–          Ownership fosters greater civility and fairness. Respecting ownership is a way to respect each other, and when ownership isn’t protected, the most vulnerable people usually suffer most for it. As Prof. Russell says, “If we care about fairness for everyone, we have to care about ownership.”


  1. connornll


  2. Anonymous

    Where is the rest of the audio?

  3. Matt Wavle

    Who’s turn is it, is a skill most of us get in kindergarten.  Perhaps the Washington crowd would do well to go back to preschool.

  4. Anonymous

    His surfer analogy has a big oversight in it in regards to libertarian ideology, which involves authorization of government to use violence to protect property.

    There is no cop surfer beating the crap out of Jill and Sam to protect rich George’s waves that he bought.
  5. andrei.roibu

    Ownership, and the right to private property are one of the core aspects of Democracy and one of its insurances. As long as people own their own land and goods nothing can harm them. Oh, ans just as a piece of news: in Romania, you only own the surface of your land. Anything under 10 m belongs to the state. I ask you, is that right ? I don’t think so !

  6. HRotondo

    To secure true prosperity, we need more videos like this one. The more people realize that ownership is the cornerstone of society, the better.

  7. Spencer Long

    Intersting perspective.

  8. gab912

    Yes it is.

  9. GeF

    owners work harder

  10. asexymind

    Ownership is the protection against greed. How’s that for counter-intuitive? If I over-consume my own property, I pay the price. If I overconsume our property, you pay the price.

  11. supersonicsixteen

    I wonder what rich people are funding these videos…

  12. diamond_max

    Surfing that’s something to think about.

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