This is way off topic, but it interests us, and there’s nothing else going on at the moment. So let’s talk about the wealth of the solar system. We assume that a great deal has been written on this subject, but we suspect that virtually all of it is worthless. Let’s look at something we found at PhysOrg: Who owns the moon? It says, with our bold font:
[B]ig corporations, rich entrepreneurs and even US politicians are eyeing up the moon and its untapped resources. Russia has plans for a manned colony by 2030 and a Japanese firm wants to build a ring of solar panels around the moon and beam energy back to Earth.
We need to be clear about the legal validity of extraterrestrial real estate as the same ideas that were once used to justify colonialism are being deployed by governments and galactic entrepreneurs. Without proper regulation, the moon risks becoming an extra-planetary Wild West.
What we think they’re trying to say — or what needs to be said — is that without a clearly defined and dependable system of property rights, it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to justify the immense investment required to develop the potential of resources on other worlds and their moons. What company is going to invest the billions that will be necessary to search for, obtain, and bring to Earth the much-needed commodities that may be found out there if some crazed outfit — with ships and weapons — doesn’t recognize their rights?
Who will bring law and order to the solar system? Some bloated, corrupt, and utterly worthless committee of the United Nations? Some treaty signed by nations who may not even be involved in such activities? The European Parliament? The World Bank? A bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels? Back to PhysOrg:
To figure out whether “earthly” laws can help decide who owns what in space – or if anything can be owned at all – we must first disentangle sovereignty from property. Back in the 17th century, natural law theorists such as Hugo Grotius and John Locke argued that property rights exist by virtue of human nature but that they can only have legal force when they are recognised by a sovereign government. Within the context of space law, the big question is whether sovereignty reaches infinity – how high must you go to escape your country?
Goofy questions. If it were your decision as head of some big mining company, would you launch a ridiculously expensive mission based on some law your government passed, or some international treaty? What if there’s a bandit country whose ships visit your mining operation on one of Jupiter’s moons and they take over everything you’ve been working on? You can’t call the cops. Whatcha gonna do? Call the insurance company? Ooops — because no one is allowed to own any property out there, your investment is uninsurable. Let’s read on:
When the US was confronted with this query in the early 1950s, it lobbied for the recognition of outer space as a global commons.
This principle can be found back in Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which clearly forbids “national appropriation by claims of sovereignty, means of use or occupation by any other means”. It has been widely accepted: no one complains the various moon landings or satellites in space have infringed their sovereignty.
Isn’t that sweet? “Global commons” means that no one owns anything. It means no private company will ever develop the resources that are out there. Government clerks might talk about it, but no one in his right mind thinks they could ever accomplish anything. PhysOrg continues:
Historical records of the Space Treaty negotiations clearly indicate people were against private appropriations at the time, but an explicit prohibition never made it into Article II. Lessons have been learned from this omission and the ban [against private property] was far more explicit in the subsequent Moon Agreement of 1979. However only 16 countries signed the agreement, none of which were involved in manned space exploration, leaving it somewhat meaningless as an international standard.
Ignoring all the dreamy nonsense, and looking at things from the viewpoint of a potential investor in what could be a fantastic enterprise, the Moon Agreement sounds like the babbling of a pack of clowns. Here’s more:
So while the idea of buying some lunar real estate might be fun, in order for these plots to be recognised as property there needs to be legal recognition by a superior authority such as a nation state. As states are not allowed to claim sovereign rights in outer space, landed property on the moon and planets will in all likelihood be outlawed.
Legal commentators are hopeful that states will remain loyal to the treaty and refrain from recognising or endorsing a private property claim. If there is a precedent, it lies at the bottom of the ocean. In 1974, the US government refused to recognise the exclusive mining rights of Deepsea Ventures to the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
This is all nonsense. If the wealth that is probably out there is going to be discovered, mined, and brought to Earth where it’s needed and will benefit everyone, all of those “experts” need to get out of the way.
There’s a lot more in the PhysOrg article, but very little of it makes any sense to us. In our humble opinion, if anything of value is going to happen out there, the people who are capable of doing it have to take the initiative. Space entrepreneurs will have to agree among themselves to recognize and defend each other’s claims. It’s absurd to depend on politicians and diplomats back home. A government committee can’t even operate a fast-food franchise. Letting them make rules for the development of the solar system is insane — in our humble opinion, of course.
See also: Property Rights in Outer Space, Revisited.
See also: Where No One Has Gone Before.
Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.