40 thoughts on “Antarctica And Space”

  1. Perhaps this could be compared to the Papal bulls separating Spanish and Portuguese territories in the New World (The Treaty of Tordesillas.) The other European countries just ignored the treaty.

    1. Ignore 4 equals 5!? That’s scandalous! If the treaty says it belongs to everyone you can’t just ignore that simply because that has no rational meaning! It’s the law even if nobody actually consents to it. You can’t just take something that nobody owns and claim it for yourself. next thing ya know people will be using it for collateral to develop it. How would the govt. keep it pristine?

      1. I’m referring to all of the other continents that were supposed to go to Spain or Portugal but were taken by England, France and Russia. And to a smaller extent Belgium, Germany and even Sweden.

        1. They did, but due to wars centuries later. Spain held onto its share for more than 300 years. Portugal’s weaker empire disintegrated sooner, but no one ignored the original divide. Britain and France only took a crack at eastern North America in the wake of the armada disaster, a century later. History did march on, it always does.

  2. Alaska’s GDP is $45B/year. Alaska is worth on the order of $1.5 trillion at the current T-bond rate of 3%. Antarctica could be worth on the order of that once it’s developed.

    The Moon is more speculative, but then so was America 525 years ago.

  3. I do wish everyone would stop speaking as if it were beyond dispute that the Outer Space Treaty prohibits private property. There are legitimate interpretations that allow such rights. The first and most obvious explanation is that Article II states only that outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to *national* appropriation by any means. (Emphasis added). It does not prohibit private appropriation. In ordinary usage, “national” appropriation means the nation or the government.

    Article VI says that states party to the treaty bear international responsibility for the acts of their nationals in outer space, and that the state party must assure that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions of the Treaty. Given that there are a couple of provisions of the treaty that apply to private actors (like Article IX’s requirement for consultation when interference looms threateningly), and Article II applies to national appropriation, which could just mean governments, we don’t need to read the treaty to prohibit private appropriation.

    In the U.S. we don’t say that a prohibition on the government necessarily applies to me. To the contrary. For example, the government may not restrict speech, but I do get to in my newspaper.

    1. I do wish everyone would stop speaking as if it were beyond dispute that the Outer Space Treaty prohibits private property.

      As you probably know, I don’t think it does, but if there is a wide-spread perception that it does, we either need to change the treaty, or change the perception.

      1. Yes, I always liked the paper you did with CEI. I was merely responding to the article’s assumption that it’s all settled.

        Just from a practical perspective, there is little impulse to re-open the treaties, and there is always opportunity for mischief when it happens.

        When the chance to interpret them properly is available, and hopefully with this Congress and administration it is, the simpler approach might be for the USG to articulate a good understanding of the various provisions through legislation. Or, the Executive branch could do something similar, but only where it has the authority to do so. U.S. legislation is hard, but international treaties are harder. Just my two cents.

        1. International treaties don’t have to be hard, as long as you’re willing to grease a few palms and have sufficient resources. The UN is pretty corrupt. 🙂

          And I’m not sure that Russia and China would be averse to reopening the issue.

    2. For a lot of people, private property is seen as a privilege extended by government to the individual. They don’t see how property can exist without the strong arm of government as an arbiter. These are the same people who have no conception of how the free market can be equitable or facilitate prosperity. For such limited minds, private property claims in territory where government is prohibited from territorial claims are unthinkable.

    3. I do wish everyone would stop speaking as if it were beyond dispute that the Outer Space Treaty prohibits private property.

      But it doesn’t recognize private property either. There’s a fair number of signatories to the Outer Space Treaty for which private property is recognized only to the extent it isn’t worth the backlash to steal. So the Outer Space Treaty doesn’t provide protection against a variety of seizures of property.

      1. But it doesn’t recognize private property either.

        But by recognizing that states are responsible for their people, does that mean that those states laws also govern those people? If so, then private property is a go for states that recognize it.

        1. “But by recognizing that states are responsible for their people, does that mean that those states laws also govern those people? If so, then private property is a go for states that recognize it.” [how do you all make italics in wordpress?]

          Sort of. There are a whole lot of people (and I’m not sure I’m one of them) who think that being “internationally responsible” means being financially liable. That’s a separate question from whether a country has jurisdiction over its nationals in outer space.

          Generally, under the law there’s a presumption against a law’s extraterritorial effect–and you’ve got to figure that means extraterrestrial effect, too– unless Congress is really specific about its laws applying outside the U.S. With the space resources law, Congress was that clear.

          1. Sort of. There are a whole lot of people (and I’m not sure I’m one of them) who think that being “internationally responsible” means being financially liable.

            That is a strong incentive for countries to regulate the space based activities of its citizens. Under our system, one would hope that means recognizing private property rights.

            unless Congress is really specific about its laws applying outside the U.S.

            That presents some interesting scenarios to ponder. What would it mean to be an American who lived their life in space away from the government’s laws and services?

            To do italics and other stuff on Rand’s blog use the less than and greater than brackets with your tags inside and a / in the last one to close it.

  4. One of the interesting points the article makes is that much of the constituency for space has been science-driven. That’s great, of course, but there are other constituencies, too, and we need to remember that a human presence on another planet may mar the pristine nature of science, but that’s ok.

    1. Space = science was the mindset of the environment in which the treaty was negotiated (though, fortunately, the Johnson administration insisted on some carve outs to allow private activities for the new comsat industry).

        1. That’s a big assumption, and the moon is a harsh mistress.

          Not only does it assume some facts not in evidence (can people gestate healthy kids in 0.38 gee? We don’t know, and that would be essential to a growing colony.) it assumes that the various governments of the world wouldn’t have their fingers all over the first colony.

          1. it assumes that the various governments of the world wouldn’t have their fingers all over the first colony.

            That is a good point. We can imagine various tipping points for self sufficiency but the control exerted by various governments could retain some measure of control even if a colony was self sufficient. But maybe they could just leave and start their own colony.

            How likely would war be over people’s desire for self determination? It kind of reminds me of people thinking Britain leaving the EU would mean a shooting war or a trade war.

          2. can people gestate healthy kids in 0.38 gee?

            We have no evidence they can’t. There is no end to the list of possible failure modes. it’s no different than the assumption that a lander would sink and be swallowed up by the dust on the moon. We did sink into the dust… less than an inch. We will have issues with partial G… probably to a similar degree. Imagination is a great thing to have… over imagination, not so much.

            Bottom line: if we can’t colonize mars there will be no self sustaining colonies anyplace else.

            Mars has the mineral diversity found nowhere else. Not even on earth because people have been mining it out for thousands of years.

            People thinking the antarctic is an analogy are idiots. Putting aside travel to get there, it will be thousands of times easier to live on mars. People adapt very little to their environment. What people do, even here on earth but so casually we don’t even think about it, is adapt the environment to suit us… and all that requires is the resources. For cold, that just means enough energy for heat. Everything else, with enough local resources, is just as easy to fix.

            Mistakes can get you killed on mars. They can get you killed in the winter in the Dakotas just as easily.

            Martians, casually living there daily lives, are going to wonder how earthers could be so silly. Mars is going to be our solar systems industrial giant making space colonies possible.

        2. A government could go after the Earth-based portions of the colony’s systems. If an Earth company owns installations on Mars and doesn’t obey the rules of its country, the government could levy fines on it. The colony would have to be pretty self-sufficient it would seem.

          1. You’re absolutely right Laura, and the result is that martians would be highly incentified to be self-sufficient. Because mars has all the mineral resources and enough energy all they need are colonists with the right mix of skills and a good start.

            Because of the artificial environment we currently live in on earth people have a hard time envisioning life on mars.

            Industry is not magic. It scales. Life on mars will be luxury because they can in ways we no longer can on earth. The only poor martians will be the ones that squandered the wealth all will arrive with (the personal property all immigrants bring with them will be real wealth because of the transportation costs… as long as we don’t saddle them with a huge debt burden to go. I’ve written many times about the solution to that.)

        1. Those that possess it on arrival. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand? This is how all land is claimed.

          Countries claim land in larger blocks than individuals simply because they have greater ability to defend those claims.

  5. Agreed that Antarctic should be developed (a.k.a. “exploited”) and even “terraformed” to the extent technology allows. Put up a greenhouse dome, install a nuke, melt the H2O for water, (the air, including CO2 fertilizer, is free) bust dirt, and become agriculturally self-sufficient. Extraction and manufacturing follow organically. Fine.

    BUT, all that should be done in Alaska, first. Small scale demo projects within a day’s drive of Barrow, near an already existing airport, hospital, dentist, visitor’s hotel, pizza shop, college library, and (albeit slightly outdated) laboratory. Already in a federally designated “reserve area” subject, not to international law, but the dictates (wise, or otherwise) of theorists in the District of Columbia. Right now a serious IMPORTER of foodstuffs, so if a pilot program could greenhouse effect its way into producing produce for local consumption, some small part of the taxpayer money dumped into the pilot program could be usefully recovered. (If they use the waste heat from a nuclear reactor to distill hootch from the vegetable scraps … there’s a market for THAT, too. The city itself is not quite legally “dry”. ) The majority demographic is Native American, so a local supporting workforce will be “diverse” by contemporary definitions.

    Anyhow … I think worrying about international treaties on Antarctica and Outer Space is very much like worrying about such treaties with regard to “Global Warming”. IF steps should be taken at all, (about which persons of goodwill may disagree) small steps, demonstration effects, by competing national and commercial entities, are to be encouraged right now; while gigantic society-changing risks are to be (at least) postponed for another couple of generations while more data is gathered.

  6. An Economist, Thomas Matula, has made several comments on this subject on the Space Review. From my understand he has studied the all the documents that detailed the actual discussions that created Article II. He claims that they purposely left wiggle room and private ownership was never catagorically locked out in those discussions.

    1. His comments on space and history are always good to read. The last time he talked about virtual economies on the Space Show, he was missing a few key pieces but was on the right track.

  7. Testing. And, thank you, if this works. (I’m kind of clueless about this, and suspect that not knowing about “tags” is going to be a problem here. Fortunately, my kids aren’t around to be mortified.)

    Also, Title 18 of the US Code does extend U.S. criminal law to outer space.

    1. And it didn’t work. I tried to quote your advice and put the less than sign at the front of it, and a slash and the greater than sign at the back of it. And it all vanished. So I feel I’m off to a good start. 🙂

      1. I tried to quote your advice and put the less than sign at the front of it, and a slash and the greater than sign at the back of it. And it all vanished.

        The item you are seeking is “less than”blockquote”greater than”. And “less than”/blockquote”greater than” at the end. (And I don’t know how to make those characters in quotes actually appear in the text.)

          1. Using “i” instead of “em” also works , and for some people it will be easier to remember: “i” for italics; “em” for emphasis. Also, you can use “b” for boldface.

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