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#1 2002-05-03 21:41:29

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

There seems to be a lot of discussion in these forums about
Martians colonists fighting their host countries/corps for independence, and I started to question whether international space law even allows a country to stake out extraterrestrial real estate for itself.  Could the USA, for instance, legally claim some Martian plain to be under the jurisdiction of its laws and prevent non-citizens of the USA from immigrating to such areas under its control?  I think I remember reading somewhere that international law prevents a country from
engaging in such pursuits.  Of course, a nation could just ignore international law and stake out some Martian real estate for itself anyway, if such law actually exists.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#2 2002-05-03 23:02:07

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

This is an interesting question I am researching myself.

I have read much already but do not really want to share too many conclusions until I read more. Besides, space law has yet to be tested in many (any?) courts so no one knows what will happen.

As a start, two Treaties need to be read and understood:

Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (USA did sign)
Moon Treaty (USA did NOT sign)

Based on a loose recollection - the Outer Space Treaty forbids a nation that signed the treaty from claiming soveriegnty over any celestial object.

No one can say "I claim this land for Queen Isabella of Spain" - or - "I claim this asteroid for the restored Tsar of greater Russia" (Hello, Anton - glad you are here)

It says nothing about property rights of private people.

That has been read two ways - private property rights are forbidden (what is not permitted is forbidden) and - private property rights are allowed (what is not forbidden is permitted)

Which is right? I do not know - nor does anyone else, IMHO. smile

The Moon Treaty does forbid claims of private property by citizens of signatory states (I may be messing up the technicalities a little, but I believe I have the essence right)

USA did NOT sign Moon Treaty. I "believe" Australia and many European nations did, which gives US citizens a potential advantage unless some other regime is enacted.

But, again IMHO, here is the rub about property rights - you can only own something if

(a) others agree you own it;
(b) a powerful government agrees you own it; or
© you have the biggest gun.

Isn't there an English chap who claims to own the asteroid NASA just visited and he says he gave NASA "permission" to land? What about those deeds to lunar real estate being sold from time to time?

Until someone powerful, a government, recognizes legal rights in property, those rights simply do not exist for any practical purpose - despite whatever political theory someone adheres to.  And, if the Outer Space Treaty forbids the USA from claiming soveriegnty over celestial objects, how can the USA grant or recognize any property rights?

Therefore, IMHO, as of May 2002 there is no human government in existence that can grant (or deny) legitimate property rights in any celestial object. So, is something prohibited unless permitted, or permitted unless prohibited?

Once people assemble and recognize property rights - voila' we have a society (Rousseau, I think)

IMHO, a great book to help with some of these questions is Hernando de Soto's "The Mystery of Capital" In the middle, he discusses some little known American history concerning squatters rights in the American Midwest and mineral rights in California, all in the 1840s and 1850s.

It seems (and I have yet to pursue his footnotes and references) that some "powers that be" on the American East Coast granted huge land grants and mining rights to their wealthy buddies. (Sounds plausible, no?)

Only when those wealthy folk actually went West, they found settlers living on "their land" and mining "their gold" - de Soto claims there are a number of very interesting court cases holding in favor of the small settlers. (This is also relevant to the election of Andrew Jackson as President)

These precedents could be very valuable to some small Martian settler fighting Bechtel or United Planets or whatever.

It is perhaps better to rely on a US Supreme Court decision (even if it is from the 1840s) rather than quote Trotsky who said: "Tools (and land?) belongs to the man who uses (mines and farms?) them!"

I have other even less developed thoughts I intend to save for later.

Finally, however, a short anecdote I have always loved:

In the late 1800s (I think) an expedition to the American West discovered a beautiful, uninhabited California valley.

They telegraphed their bosses in New York.

Found glorious valley. STOP
Great timber, good water, plentiful minerals. STOP
Send, as soon as possible, lawyers, guns and money. STOP

"Lawyers, guns and money. . ." Great name for a horse, or a yacht.

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#3 2002-05-04 12:29:08

Omer Joel
Banned
From: Quiriat Tivon, Israel
Registered: 2002-05-03
Posts: 23

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

I suppose that this question will be settled once a permament Mars base will be actually built there. Treaties could be changed; The actual legal status would probably depend on who will finance the permament base; The more corporations involved, the more likely private individuals will be allowed to claim ownership over Martian soil. Also, it seems quite rediculus to me that a treaty disallowing private ownership of real estate on Mars will stil be in place at the time when actual large-scale civilian colonization will become reality. As long as you have a scientific station,  especially a multinational one, private ownership of land might not matter that much; once you'll get a non-scientific civilian colony, land ownership will become more of an issue.

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#4 2002-05-04 13:31:28

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

haha, I love that bit about lawyers, guns, and money.  Anyways, it must have been the Outer Space Treaty that I read some time back that stated that no country could claim territory in space because objects in space are considered the property of all humankind or something like that.  Interesting paradox between whether such a treaty allows individuals to own land or not.  It seems such a treaty pretty much guts any nations right to not only establish someone's right to own land, but to deny it as well.  I guess the U.N.  could send some armed peace keepers up there to put the clamps on anyone claiming land for themselves, but if a sufficiently organized and able society protects that settler's
claim, such space law won't apply anyhow.
              I think Omer is right also that if Capitalism continues to exist, there will be very little development in space unless corporations/individuals can claim extraterrestrial land for themselves.  Such economic considerations on their own are often powerful enough to topple laws.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#5 2002-05-05 08:00:11

Josh Cryer
Moderator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

‘Armed peace keepers.’

I like that. smile


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#6 2002-05-05 13:23:32

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

You have to love all those euphemisms that are thrown around.  It seems whenever you see U.N. peacekeepers patrolling some city they're carrying around machine guns.  I think most governments see the use of force, or the threat of it, as a means of keeping "peace".


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#7 2002-05-05 19:35:38

quasar777
Member
Registered: 2002-05-05
Posts: 135

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

if i was a "peacekeeper" i`d be armed too. what would be the point in suicide? actually the un peacekeeping force should be expanded.

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#8 2002-05-06 14:26:43

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

Here is a website that seems to give a quick summary of current space law thinking with further resources.

<< http://www.permanent.com/ep-legal.htm >>

Thanks to Omer Joel who pointed me to www.permanent.com in the asteroid thread.

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#9 2002-05-06 15:05:16

Josh Cryer
Moderator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

That's a very interesting read. I especially like the part basically disavowing communism in favor of capitalism, while further on down they advocate using telecommunication satellites in a  socialistic manner.

Kind of cute. smile

What's the difference is between a few huge corps owning everything and a government (the people) owning everything?


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#10 2002-05-09 18:25:42

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

I think one of the pluses to Capitalism is that it has more economic freedom.  Unless your a high level bureaucrat
in a strictly Communist country, you can probably kiss goodbye trying to market any of your inventions or starting your own business.  I think this is why a mixed economy is best, I don't think a group of central planners can't really anticipate anything but the most basic needs of individuals anyway.  The standards of living don't seem to be as high.  I think people should have the freedom to market services/ideas/products with minimal red tape.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#11 2002-05-10 18:33:24

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

I'm not normally very interested in the fine details of politics but this discussion is certainly an interesting one.
   My idea of the best political system is one which interferes least in people's lives while providing a background of inconspicuous but reassuring order. My mother always used to say that successful society ultimately depends on good manners and self-discipline! If some people can't be relied upon to manifest these attributes voluntarily, then for the sake of the rest of us, they just have to have them imposed by whatever means necessary.
   Call me cynical if you like but it seems that wherever you go, laws end up having to be imposed by force on some people. Here on Earth, crime, and the force needed to deal with it, quite commonly seem to involve guns and, occasionally, explosives!
   I'm trying to imagine similar scenarios acted out in colonies on the Moon and Mars and I keep running into serious difficulties. The environments of space colonies are obviously delicate. A few stray bullets or explosions are bad enough on Earth but imagine the possible consequences in a dome on Mars!
   Suppose you get a group of settlers who've set up their own dome on Martian terrain which is claimed as the property of Dupont (or some such entity). If the dispute can't be resolved amicably and the settlers take it into their heads to defend their dome, how could Dupont or any law enforcement agency hope to do anything about it? Any use of force will surely result in wholesale destruction of life (much of it innocent) due to collateral damage to the life-support systems.
   Laws are nothing if there is no way to enforce them .... I think we would all have to agree with that. But if you want to maintain a credible legal system off-Earth, you're going to have to come up with a new way of imposing it if it's to mean anything at all.
                                       ???


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#12 2002-05-11 23:21:21

RobS
Banned
From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
Website

Re: Current Space Law - Some Questions

It will be interesting to see what happens when someone plans to build something permanent on the moon or Mars. Then these issues will have to be resolved. The moon may be the first test case, because the areas at the poles where there is permanent shadow and ice are not vast--large, but not vast--and areas with perpetual sunlight (mountain peaks) are very small and rare. Whoever wants to tap the resources of the lunar poles will have to claim mountain peaks for themselves. I suspect by then some sort of legal arrangement will be made.

Once there are people on Mars--even a few--there will be people to set up and police land claims, and that means that thousands of people *on Earth* will be able to buy plots of Martian land and obtain legally binding title. This is important because the Mars fans who join the Mars Society and otherwise dream will at least be able to buy a piece of Mars. They'll eventually be able to rent a rover to explore their land remotely (the controls could be handled remotely with cheap software and a DSL web connection). They may even be able to get samples flown back from their land. For all these services they will have to pay, and they might even have to pay a small annual land tax as well.

If this becomes popular, there may be far more Mars land owners on Earth than on Mars. On could imagine that the Mars government would have to accommodate their interests and rights, possibly by given then voting rights of a sort (perhaps for one chamber of a Mars legislature).

               --RobS

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