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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

So What Are You Going To Do About It?

The Speculist has a note about space property rights. Know as many of you know (if I still have any steady readers since I haven't posted in a while) I am very interested in space property. All of this talk about who owns what in space will only be settled when there are people truly living there and when commerce is established.

The article goes on to suggest that the UN is King George to the
would-be-settlers' American colonists. Let's hope it doesn't come down to that.
But if it does, I think I know which side I'm on.

To sum it up, this issue will be resolved when settlers and/or companies look back at the UN from space and say "So what are you going to do about it?" When that question is asked, history happens. Where it is a young, nerdy, overly picked on boy finally has enough, or when a group of humans finally has enough. English colonists look at England and said (through their actions) "Screw you, so what are you going to do about it?" England, of course, march one of the greatest armies in the world (at the time) across the sea (figuratively) and brought war to our land. From that war, came America.

Now, not to disparage the UN, my inclining is that they will shrug their shoulders and talk about how rough and barbaric space is. How space citizens need to be enlightened. Truth is they will do nothing of consequence. What could the do, really, as they are worse than useless.

That moment, whether through war or elitists inaction, is when we will become an extraterrestrial species.


PhysBrain said...

Lucky for you I keep checking in every once in a while. :)

If the current state of the world, and the UN's role in it, continues forward for the forseeable future, I don't think that there is much the UN will be able to do about disputes arising in space. At the moment, those kind of issues are way beyond their charter. The UN exists to mediate disputes amongst the nations of Earth.

I'd be more concerned with what the space-faring nations, or possibly space-faring mega corporations, would have to say to our nose-thumbing colonists. This is especially true for the nations, or corporations, who decide that there is something in space valuable enough to protect with military assets. If it comes down to a few space colonists causing trouble for more powerful entities, I'm sure life could be made very difficult for our would-be rebels.

There will be no off Earth rebellion until such time as the space settlements are both self-sufficient and capable of defending themselves against whatever external threats exist. Until then, they will be to dependent on the continued good will of those on Earth to simply keep them alive.

murphydyne said...

I'm not entirely sold on the absolute necessity of "property rights" for space development. What I do think is essential is that entitites operating in space are entitled to the peaceful use of whatever they are doing, and that there be a means of adjudicating disputes (with teeth).

So a miner that sets up shop is entitled to set up his slusher bucket fields and have their operation unimpeded by anyone else.

Once he's finished with a field and has moved on, he's entitled to no ongoing claim to that area.

If I set up polar power towers on a crater rim you can't set up right next to me and block my view of the Sun.

I look at it like China. No one owns the dirt they're on in China, but by leasing it you're entitled to the peaceful unimpeded use of that dirt for a fixed period of time. Of course, if the Chinese government should change its mind, you're kind of S.O.L.

What this means is that governments have to be ready to stand up for their nation's companies and enterprises in an international adjudication mechanism. I don't think we're quite there yet.

FlyingSinger said...

This is an interesting topic, and one that will have to be faced at some time in the future. I just finished reading KSR's "Red Mars" (first in his trilogy about colonizing Mars) which is very detailed about everything, including issues of politics, space law, claims, the UN's role, settlers' rights, etc. He includes all this and more and keeps a good story going over 30+ years too! Good book.

The upshot is that it's complicated, and that simple solutions that could work for joint ownership, sharing, "common good," etc. for sceintific bases and pilot programs and the like can break down badly once there are people who consider themselves Martians (Selenians? Lunans?) more than Terrans, and once there are profits to be made. In that 1993 book, all hell breaks loose on Earth in ~2050's (environmental ruin and wars) and transnational companies are stronger than most governments. When a new treaty is finally signed to keep things balanced on Mars, the transnationals end up effectively taking over some small (Earth) countries to get control of their shares of the Mars booty. This leads to all hell breaking loose on Mars too.

Like they say, it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye, or becomes self-sufficient enough to consider themselves independent of Earth. Then they will remake whatever rules are set up for the interim, and it will get very interesting.