Thursday, February 22, 2007

E.T. Stead Home

Professor Ilya Somin, writing on the Volokh Conspiracy, offers a coolly rational argument for extra-terrestrial property rights: "While some government-owned facilities in space and on the Moon are probably inevitable and desirable, imposing government ownership on all property beyond Earth orbit, as the conventional interpretation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty seems to do, is a recipe for disaster." His measured lines doubtless do more to promote the cause of E.T. homesteading than the sort of rash thing I'm apt to blurt out: "Let's just launch, leave the bureaucrats dirt-bound, and lay claim to the sky!" Further to his credit, Prof. Somin probably does not have to climb down from his desk when he's finished orating, either.

For all that, though, he cannot hide his vivid imagination. Prof. Somin let's slip the kernel of a great idea for a ripping good yarn: "A vast socialist empire in space is no more likely to be a good idea than earthbound socialist empires have been." Just think what the likes of Neal Stephenson could make from that! A novel crossing decades and light-years, charting the struggle to escape both tyranny and gravity--"Star Wars" meets "Lord of the Rings."


mike shupp said...

Uh.... proposed "socialistic government" of extraterrestrial bodies envisioned by the Moon Treaty and others is NOT a "People's Republic of Lunaria" or anything of that like but "the common heritage of Mankind."

Which would maybe mean the United Nations in practice, but in truth no one has the slightest idea since no one has made any serious claim on the Moon or other bodies.

What seems clear is that smaller nations and countries without space programs, and 3rd World nations in general -- all those people who don't rule the world, those who have been colonized rather than colonizers, those with grievances against the USA, etc. --the Iraqs and Irans and Trinidads and Columbias of the world rather than say the UK and France -- decided during the 1960's that they did not want to see the planets taken over and ruled by big powers as they had been, and that they did not want to see whatever financial and political benefit there might be in solar system colonization and exploitation to belong entirely to a small number of space-faring nations.

I'm not totally convinced by this reasoning -- I'd like to see some colonies on the Moon and elsewhere myself, and I don't mind if some capitalists get rich Up There -- but those objections have some strength even four decades after the Moon Treaty was signed, and I suspect they will for the remainder of the century. People who think it will be simple and easy and obviously virtuous to abrogate those treaties are living in a dream world.

--mike shupp

Aaron Davies said...

No need to distract Stephenson from writing the future part of the Cryptonomicon/Baroque Cycle books--David Weber's Honor Harrington books have that niche pretty much sown up.

Anonymous said...

I'm all in favor of the human race abandoning earth and living on other planets. We should leave the earth to all the other species that inhabit it and are rapidly going extinct because of us. Even the Sun is a proper destination for the majority of the world's bestial humans. I'll pitch in some dough for the one-way trip.

Sub Specie AEternitatis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sub Specie AEternitatis said...

Surely this comment thread is not complete without these lyrics.

Firefly Theme Song
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...