The Liberation of Things, People, and Cities
“Whoever’s is the soil, it is theirs all the way to Heaven and all the way to Hell.” The ancient legal principle of ad coelum et ad inferos states that the rights of a landowner extend indefinitely above and below the ground. The idea dates back to the Roman Empire and appears in English law since at least 1587. It survived in various forms well into the twentieth century, even in the U.S., until 1946. That year, the Supreme Court finally decided that the “doctrine has no place in the modern world”. As Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “common sense revolts at the idea” whose application in modern times would mean that every commercial flight would lead to “countless trespass suits”.