This review of David Schorr's book, The Colorado Doctrine: Water Rights, Corporations, and Distributive Justice on the American Frontier, maintains that the book is a therapeutic corrective to the standard history of the origins of western water law as celebration of economic efficiency and wealth maximization. Schorr's account convincingly contends that the roots of prior appropriation water law -- the "Colorado Doctrine" -- lie in distributional justice concerns, not in the supposed efficiency advantages of private property over common property. The goals of the founders of the Colorado doctrine, according to Schorr, were to advance Radical Lockean principles such as widespread distribution of water to current settlers and avoiding monopolization of the resource by large landowners and corporate speculators. The book explains how western water law doctrines like the abolition of riparian rights, beneficial use as the basis and measure of water rights, the sufficiency principle, the no-injury rule limiting the transferability of rights, and public ownership of water all served these Radical Lockean goals. Schorr generally downplays the significance of temporal priority, thought by many to be the hallmark of western water law, and he explains the early Colorado courts surprising and consistent favoring of small-scale farmers over large-scale corporations like ditch companies.The book has also been reviewed here and here.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
The Colorado Doctrine
I'm happy to report that Michael Blumm has posted "Antimonopoly and the Radical Lockean Origins of Western Water Law", a review of my book, The Colorado Doctrine: Water Rights, Corporations, and Distributive Justice on the American Frontier (Yale UP, 2012). From the abstract: