Extra-terrestrial land claims
Because I’m a bit of a dork I’m obviously a Marsophile. Or maybe it’s a Marsphilite. Although, now that I think about it, red, dusty and freezing cold probably isn’t really my scene, so maybe I’m more of a classical armchair colonialist. If probed I will probably say we should send people there to go fuck things up, because… well… its kinda our thing. And we shouldn’t rage against our thing.
To be honest… crashing asteroids (or maybe even Phobos) into Mars, melting ice with giant space mirrors , dropping nuclear bombs onto the surface or artificially creating a magnetic field is academically quite interesting (and I like reading about these fantastically kooky ideas). But really, my first love, is economics. (and then philosophy) so property rights interest me waaaaay more. ‘Oh my god Jo, you have like the most-least interesting blog in the history of the world, can’t you just flash us your A-cups instead?)
Hear me out. Who owns Mars? So when the United States and the USSR were hating on each other the United Nations adopted the Outer Space Treaty in 1962 to stop, eh… well colonization. I guess. I mean they probably kicked the legs out from under us in terms of space-exploration because if you can’t own it and write your name on it… why would we want it? And more importantly, why would we throw money at it?
But you know, now we have rich (crazy) people. Who aren’t really governed by treaties signed by nation-states. I mean there is a case that nation-states aren’t really governed by treaties either… but you know, lets pretend they are.
So the question remains, who owns Mars… or will own Mars. Do the first settlers call dibs on the whole planet? Do the settlers stake out their domain with pegs and little bits of string? Who enforces these property rights? I mean its all a little bit academic… until gold is discovered. Metaphorically speaking I mean. Or maybe there is actual gold, who knows. Suddenly who owns the regolith matters.
Who owns the atmosphere when there eventually is one? Is it the corporation who attached rocket boosters to a giant space rock and then crashed it into mars or the peeps that imported (at great cost) crates of microbes and algae from earth to ‘get things moving along’ I mean why would you even do these things if you aren’t incentivized by some sort of gain.
There is, weirdly, no great way to decide these things. And how we co-operated, or don’t co-operate to divvy up new planets is going to say a lot about us as a species.
Fortunately Mars doesn’t have natives that need to be… eh… integrated with. Which in a way makes it the perfect test case for… well… truth be told I don’t have much hope for these things getting ironed out in a bloodless fashion.
Initially at least it may well be beautifully anarcho-capitalistic in nature. There will be HUGE division of labor in the initial batch of colonists. ‘The butcher’ and ‘the baker’ will not be able to do each others job and must therefore play very nicely among themselves in order to survive. Survival is a fantastic motivator to get things done in a way that, eh… doesn’t blow everyone out through the airlock.
Political ideology is the elephant in the room though.
I think Elon (when asked about Martian government) said something about… either a technocracy or a meritocracy. I can’t remember, and really it doesn’t matter. Eventually basic survival becomes less of an issue… and we can start focusing on what we do well. Griping about each others politics and having some people wanting to be in charge of everyone else (be that through ‘representation’ or more autocratic means).
Maybe Mars will become this socialist paradise where everyone just works, resources are pooled for collective use and everyone is happy. There are no rulers or overlords… everyone is equal and cheerful with their lot in life, everyone does what needs to be done without expectation of remuneration.. Also we’ve decided which God is the right God. I mean we may potentially be living on a planet named for one of the dead gods of yore. God or gods tend to mess us up.
I have my doubts. Obviously. That we will do any of those things. Fortunately I won’t be around to be massively disappointed. Which is probably a good thing.
Postscript. If you guys want to freeze my head though, and bring me back as the Martian Philosopher-king-in-a-jar I might be okay with that. I would like to rule from the top of Olympus Mons (obviously). I mean if I’m going to have a caveat it might as well be that.