As I have been pondering the fate of a lunar colony this Christmas, I came across an idea. What is sovereignty? The diction says:
Freedom from outside interference and the right to self-government
Well that answers that. More to the point how does a group gain sovereignty?
Over the past few months, I have read more than a few novels on Moon colonies. Most notably, Ben Bova’s Moonwar and Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In these, and most other novels, the lunar citizens are forced to declare independence and fight a war for their freedom.
Since I am on vacation this week, I have given myself the freedom to dwell on philosophical what-ifs for a little while. And having done that, I have found myself asking, what makes a country sovereign?
Is it simply the will to declare as a collective the will to determine your own destiny? Or is it the point at which other countries recognize your sovereignty? At worst it is when the primary opponent of your independence gives in.
To answer this question in my most Socratic fashion, let us examine some historical examples of groups of people declaring sovereignty.
Let me premise this by saying, I am in no way a historian. But let us consider for a moment, when did the United States of America become a self-governing nation? Was it at the signing on the Declaration of Independence? Perhaps it was when the war was over. I may have even been when we, as a collective, decided to separate ourselves from England and stopped obeying their laws.
Think you have the answer. Well how about this one? When the southern states withdrew from the union, were they sovereign? Did they, in fact, create a new nation? Or, because they did not when the war, were they never an independent nation.
In a more modern example, when did Iraq become a sovereign nation? When the US troops rolled into Baghdad or at the last elections? When Sadam was found and put on trial? Maybe they still aren’t a sovereign nation.
Okay, great political philosophy discussion, but what does this have to do with space exploration? What does sovereignty mean for colonist on another “celestial body?” If all the nations of the Earth said “You can not be sovereign,” does that make them not sovereign?
To say it more generally, does a group’s right to self-govern depend on other countries’ willingness to accept their sovereignty? When a group of lunar colonist decide to quote the immortal words of Whitney Houston and tell the Earth to “kiss my ass,” are they subject to a treaty other countries signed.
Can a group of countries 225,000 miles away take away a person’s right of self determination? Do people even have a God given right to self determination? If people, in fact, have a right to determine how they are going to be ruled, what treaty could take that away?
I am curious about your thoughts on this.