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Privatizing the moon and beyond

Posted by: Jagazur - Wed Aug 11, 2004 11:40 pm
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Privatizing the moon and beyond 
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Post Privatizing the moon and beyond   Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 11:40 pm
Is there any lawyer here who could confirm that as of now one cannot truly own a piece of the moon or mars? As I understand the same also goes for nations, i.e. the moon cannot be claimed by any nation.

To make space travel economically viable would it not be reasonable to instore a principle of active settlement - i.e. that a certain area of lunar or marsian land would become the internationally recognized property of whoever builds on it. On the national level, the same could apply on a grander scale.

Just as with the (unfortunate) European colonization of Africa a century ago, nations and corporations would be driven by greed and rivalry to grab as big as a portion as possible of any land available in the solar sytem, even at significant risk and cost. The US would for example never want to see China or Russia gain larger land holdings on the moon and would race to settle it as fast as possible, and the race to colonize would subsequently continue on Mars and its moons and beyond.

This is not an idealist and altruistic proposal per se, but the mechanics of it might work and the long-term results would benefit all mankind. To get into space as fast as possible there must be compelling national interests along those that are purely financial, as the profits from pure investment projects to go into space are so far into the future that the discounted net present value of any such undertaking approaches zero.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 12, 2004 2:05 am
Jagazur,

Welcome to this board.

The engine of any market economy is private property rights and the rule of law to protect these rights.

Even China has realised this within its own economy. It's entrepreneurs need the incentive to grow their businesses. Its called ownership.

Whether it is the Moon or Mars or where ever, without property rights, human expansion will be muted.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 12, 2004 7:55 am
Is there any ownership of the earth? Is there any government claiming to be the sole owner of our whole planet? I never heard of such a government or country.

And never anyone has asked this question because its very far from experience. By experience the idea that there might be a sole owner of the earth is pure nonsense. By analogy follows that there mustn't be any owner of the moon, the Mars etc.

Looking into the inner of single countries most of the land within the territory of a free country is privately owned - and not public or by the government. Sole public ownership of land is normal only in communist countries.

From this point of view there might be no difference between Earth on the one side and the moon, the Mars etc. on the other side.

traveler is right - he didn't mention property right the first time in his recent post. But property rights are established by laws and constitutions. And each law is valid on private land. Property rights are different from country to country. But your own car remains to be your car even if you are in a foreign country with different property rights. This is valid for moon, Mars and space too - the Mars rovers remain ownership of NASA despite the Mars not being ownership of NASA or US.

So the laws of a country on earth are protecting ownership on things brought to moon, Mars etc. and so far valid in space too.

Next point - as there is no owner of the moon taking stones from the moon or settling on a piece of land on the moon doesn't mean steeling it from someone. It's free until you take it - and you practically cannot take the whole moon.

It's proving to be a quite difficult topic.

I'm no lawyer but the philosophy behind laws and constitutions is important in Economics too.



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)


Last edited by Ekkehard Augustin on Fri Oct 01, 2004 7:08 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Example   Posted on: Thu Aug 12, 2004 2:41 pm
I think the problem would be best illustrated by the following example:

Suppose that I as a private company invest ten of billions into building a Helium 3 extraction facility on the moon. I land, build the necessary mines, processing facilitities etc etc. Today, noone will be there to dispute my sole ownership of these production assets.

Helium 3 however is quite valuable, so the only way to protect my investment in the long run is to secure the H3 deposits along with the surrounding land, just as would any petroleum extraction firm on Earth by simply buying the land in question. The problem is that currently, as far as I know, this is impossible. This is unclaimed, virgin land with no ownership and there is currently no mechanism to establish recognized ownership over it. As an industrialist and invostor in this very ambitious and long-term project, I therefore have serious causes to worry.

The mechanism I propose to solve this would work as follows: As I effectively build my facility on the moon, a certain number of square miles surrounding the facility would automatically become US territory under US legal jurisdiction (supposing I am basing my firm in the US). The land would also automatically become my property under US jurisdiction for all time to come unless I decide to sell it later.

Suppose now that my US rival rushes to the moon to pre-empt my attempts to monopolize the Helium 3 market. Next to my land is another deposit of Helium 3 and my rival immediately starts building his facilities there. The piece of land next to mine become his property and the US territory expands.

It gets more complicated when my Chinese rival establishes his enterprise on the moon. One can easily imagine a scenario where we get an impossible patch work of national territories. Therefore, our treaties of active settlement would state that settlers of different nations must keep X hundreds of miles' distance from other national territories when settlement of a moon or planet begins. This would help create consolidated national territories on the moon and beyond. My Chinese rival would hence settle 500k away and build his plant there, planting the seed for a large Chinese territory at that location.

Once these territorial seeds were planted, nations and their private enterprizes would be free to rush to conquer as much land as possible.

Obviously my Chinese rival could by my land and facilities within the US territory. As the national territories would be set for all time to come once originally established (settled), my rival's acquisition woul dnow fall under US jurisdiction (just as here on earth).

Could these necessary laws/treaties be made to see the light of day? :)


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Post    Posted on: Fri Aug 13, 2004 8:14 am
Hello, Jagazur,

the mechanism you are proposing wouldn't work.

First the facilities you build on the moon are your private property but for other reasons you might buy property of land in Germany. This land will be your private property too but it will not become US territory. So the lunar territory you are occupying won't become US territory - it is foreign as well as your german land.

Second the US government today won't be able to establish the authority of US laws and the US constitution on the moon because thsi requires courts, judges, army, air force etc. So the US goverment has to move a lot of people and equipment to the moon to establish the authority and it wouldn't do that for a single enterprise.

Third as well as the US government will have to move a lot of people and equipment each other country will have to do that too. This is protecting you against problems with other countries.

Fourth your US rival, the chinese rival and other rivals have to move equipment to the moon as well as you yourself. They will have nearly identical serious causes to worry as you. And as the moon is many times more dangerous than any place on earth they will be much more cautious to save their lives as on earth and you yourself will be too. So because of your common interests you all will keep peace and only compete at the markets on earth. All the people working for you and your rivals will begin to form a community. When this community grows up to a critical size it will begin to establish its own courts etc. because this will prove to be required. And then this community will be going to become an own country. And if the will be a rival that first was part of a communist country this rival will become a private enterprise and he and the people working for him wil become citizens of the new country on the moon.

This evolution doesn't necessarily take place - but it es one possible scenario. What I wanted to say was that the distance and the danger of the moon are working as a protection and as peace-keeping.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 14, 2004 5:41 pm
Just to throw in my thoughts, take them or leave them as you wish.

Any contract or law is only valid if it can be enforced. It is nice to say that the Moon or Mars can't be owned or claimed by anyone but with no one to enforce it, it is basicaly invalid. Should a group of private individuals actually land on the moon and open a small settlement, for all purposes, the moon belongs to them, to sell off or set up a government or open casinos or whatever... Because they are there... and presumably they can enforce their own laws and rules and contracts.

Does the hardware on the moon belong to the original owners? Theoretically, yes. Then again, theoretically I am 23 years old, body like Adonis with the intelligence of Einstein. Things do change a bit when a third party is there to observe or participate in the proving of a theory.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 15, 2004 12:44 am
Thank you for your comments. I have a couple of replies though.

Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
Hello, Jagazur,

the mechanism you are proposing wouldn't work.

First the facilities you build on the moon are your private property but for other reasons you might buy property of land in Germany. This land will be your private property too but it will not become US territory. So the lunar territory you are occupying won't become US territory - it is foreign as well as your german land.

--->

As stated in the example the property rights assigned both to private individuals and countries would be an occurence involving virgin land only. Non-virgin land would automatically have the jurisdiction of the nation that first colonized it, regardless of how private owners of different nationalitiis later transact the land. It would basically work like on Earth.

The difference is that there is no virgin, unclaimed land on Earth. However there is plenty on the moon - the idea is to make the potential ownership of land a driver for colonization of unclaimed territories.

---

Second the US government today won't be able to establish the authority of US laws and the US constitution on the moon because thsi requires courts, judges, army, air force etc. So the US goverment has to move a lot of people and equipment to the moon to establish the authority and it wouldn't do that for a single enterprise.

---->

The US does not have to move people to for instance, an oil rig out in the ocean in order to assert its authority - it can do it by sanctioning operation existing on US soil, where the core business of most companies is anyway. No security personnel would have to be physically transferred for this reason.

----

Third as well as the US government will have to move a lot of people and equipment each other country will have to do that too. This is protecting you against problems with other countries.

Fourth your US rival, the chinese rival and other rivals have to move equipment to the moon as well as you yourself. They will have nearly identical serious causes to worry as you. And as the moon is many times more dangerous than any place on earth they will be much more cautious to save their lives as on earth and you yourself will be too. So because of your common interests you all will keep peace and only compete at the markets on earth. All the people working for you and your rivals will begin to form a community. When this community grows up to a critical size it will begin to establish its own courts etc. because this will prove to be required. And then this community will be going to become an own country. And if the will be a rival that first was part of a communist country this rival will become a private enterprise and he and the people working for him wil become citizens of the new country on the moon.

---->

There is no doubt that any colony eventually becomes idenpendent. But national pride and desire to expand is the driving force behind any effort to colonize. This does not have to mean open hostilities between rival countries but rather peaceful competition with some shared critical resources.

----

This evolution doesn't necessarily take place - but it es one possible scenario. What I wanted to say was that the distance and the danger of the moon are working as a protection and as peace-keeping.

---->

A lot of things can happen as you say. There is however no moment in human history where a country has invested ANY resources into establishing a global, altruistic colony ANYWHERE. Colonization has always been about externalizing internal national problems, projection and expansion of power, control of national resources and ABOVE all the fear that rivals may gain control over these resources before you do.

To take the step out into space the right social and historical stage must be set. All historical colonization on earth and ALL significant expansion into space to date (human space flights) have taken place because of a historical conntext of rivalry between nations.

The technology to colonize the moon exists, yet it's not happening. Why? Because there are no strategic stakes at hand (strategic from an economic perspective).

Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)



Thank you for your thoughts and comments :) It's good to debate. It would be of special interest to find a report by Harvard/MIT on economically viable expansion into space. I've heard one has been made but haven't read it unfortunately.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 15, 2004 10:55 am
Hello, kc7rad,

to own the whole moon the number of persons owning it has to be sufficiently large to settel at a huge number of places that are close to at least one other place. Consder earth - only a community of hundreds of millions of people is able to own the moon as a whole.

You're right - but a group of hundred men isn't able to own the moon because they don't have the forces and the power to make it their property. But they really have the power and the forces to make 25 square-kilometers of the lunar surface their property.



Hello, Jagazur,

I don't know any Havard work vconcerning expansion into space. But if you are interested you may find your own thoughts to be considered as valid. Nearly all posts concerning property rights in this board include an aspect of proeprty rights the economist Ronald Coase has got the Nobel Prize for: Making something a property, moving property from one owner to another owner, destruction of property and making the way to the property requires a special kind of costs not payed by money and mostly not remarked: Transaction costs. What kc7rad and I myself answered to you - for example - is based on nothing else than transaction costs to a great portion.

What transaction costs are reqquired to expand into space? An what revenues are to be expected? Are the revenues greater than the transaction costs? But be cautious - transcation doesn't mean movement inthe sense of moving something from one place to another. Transaction means moving rights. And what I said in my answer was that the US and other countries are confronted to transaction costs being prohibitive today if they try to establish the public property right "law" at the moon.

Transaction costs can be reduced if something may be controlled by radio - but "law" doesn't.

What questions do you have?



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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 15, 2004 12:33 pm
There is a difference between claim and reality. If, for example, you have a group of US settler who settle in one spot on the Moon, and lay claim to all of the Moon, they need to be able to enforce that claim. Given that their opposition will likely be able to find supporters as strong as the original settlers', the best case will be a cold-war-ish standoff between these two fledgling colonies. Worse case, one side blows the other side up to get rids of them. Worst case, they both blow each other up.

We need to limit the size of any claim laid to any planetary body by a group, if you ask me. Otherwise, there's lots of trouble waiting...

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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 15, 2004 5:41 pm
Please refer to my last post concerning the Space Exploration Timetable in the second section of this board:

1. A war on the moon itself will tend to destroy each rival entirely.
2. Transportation of military spacecrafts or other military equipment to the moon wil tend to ruin the rivalizing countries fiscaly and entirely much faster than the World War II.
3. A war on earth concerning the moon may destroy the ability of the rivals to launch and to land.



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Last edited by Ekkehard Augustin on Mon Aug 16, 2004 6:13 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 15, 2004 7:14 pm
Autochton wrote:
We need to limit the size of any claim laid to any planetary body by a group, if you ask me. Otherwise, there's lots of trouble waiting...


The problem with that is that it implies whichever group setting the limit has jurisdiction over the moon. The US couldn't do it without a massive outcry by many other countries and I don't think the UN wants anyone to have any property rights anywhere.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 16, 2004 6:22 am
The UN has excluded itself from power over other planets by the treaty. Because no country is allowed to claim ownership of another planet the UN itself cannot claim ownership itself - the UN isn't an over-national institution but an inter-national institution. And as to be seen in the past it has not much power. It has no spacecrafts too.

There is no worlwide valid UN law concerning the privates and if something considered as UN law by some people should be declared valid on another planet this will lead to a vast debate under the rule of ideologies.

So the UN don't have to say anything concerning property rights and especially private property rights.

I consider this to be the best. Let the evolve ne communities on other planets governing themselves but take care to send only people that behave responsible, liberal and democratic.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 17, 2004 2:26 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
1. A war on the moon itself will tend to destroy each rival entirely.
True, but when has this ever stopped anyone from fighting?
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2. Transportation of military spacecrafts or other military equipment to the moon wil tend to ruin the rivalizing countries fiscaly and entirely much faster than the World War II.
Well, who needs a dedicated weapon? They will likely be able to jury rig weapons, or convert tools. Cutting tools, welding tools, especially mining tools... And any chemist can mix up some explosives that work just fine in vacuum.
Quote:
3. A war on earth concerning the moon may destroy the ability of the rivals to launch and to land.
Now this I see as unlikely. I sincerely doubt that people will be fighting over the moon anywhere but on the moon - if nothing else than because they'd be getting into a whole different ballgame of trouble.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 17, 2004 3:44 pm
Your answer to my first point is plausible - but don't forget: you are mentioning experiences made on earth. They mustn't be extrapolated to the moon bcause it is extremely more dangerous there and for the first hundred years settlers there would feel very much fear of damaging or hurting anything essential for being alive. If one settler will hurt another and see him dying by´something that on earth only is only wounding a little it will impress him many times more and intensively than on earth. The first experience of this kind will stop the hurting for the first time because of psychological effects never experienced before

It's a quite different world and situation and all will have fear and all will be anxious.



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Post Space law   Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 12:58 am
As far as owning property on the Moon, you can find lawyers on both sides of the debate, each arguing a compelling case. However, I believe market forces will force the law to be more clear as economic activity increases.

Generally, I'm a positivist law adherent, which is to say I believe that laws should be made by the citizens who are immediately affected. In other words, laws governing lunar activities should, in principle, be made by those who actually live or work on the Moon. Natural law folks would advocate the establishment of laws beforehand, like the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

In any event, I'm convinced you can own property on the Moon (under the 1967 OST), and sell the resources that might be found in or on it. "For all mankind" can mean a variety of different things, including support of a free-market system. The issue comes down to government regulation, monitoring, and so forth, which is required under the OST.

The details of OST have yet to be ironed out (though debated since 1967), and they won't be until people start challenging the treaty through action (for example, actually robotically gathering a sample of Martian hematite beads and selling them as jewelry), rather than through debate.

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