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Governor of Outer Space Territory

FAA's authority from Congress extends only to takeoff and landing. This is duly implemented in the new proposed regs. The Outer Space Treaty makes the US liable for damages caused by US spacecraft and citizens to other signatory's people and stuff whereever they are. That includes outer space and the rest of the planets. These areas too should be considered and governed for every US citizen and corporation that wants a US flagged spacecraft. There are excellent opportunities for US (mobile home) colonies in unoccupied territory. It's time to appoint someone whose job it is to make that happen. A new position should be created: the Governor of Outer Space Territory.

Like the Space Paidhi in C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series, there would be a need for bridging tremendous cultural gaps between political leaders and spacers, quick thinking about governance modes, and even some rough frontier justice.

Why stop there? We should have an Ocean Territory Governor, a Sky Territory Governor and (an underground) Crust Territory Governor.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 15, 2006 09:27 PM
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Yes, the one thing that we all agree that outer space needs is more crippling multinational bureaucracy and regulation.

Posted by Chris Mann at January 16, 2006 04:37 AM

Earth is worth $55 trillion a year or about $1 quadrillion if you wanted to buy it complete with its "crippling multinational bureaucracy and regulation". The Moon is worth how much? Has a GDP of how much?

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 16, 2006 04:51 AM

A bit of nit-picking here...FAA's authority extends upward into the atmosphere too, through Air Traffic Control. That authority, at least, is above the continental US, then to other Air Traffic sites.

Posted by Mac at January 16, 2006 05:26 AM

>>"The Moon is worth how much? Has a GDP of how much?"

Dunno, you'd have to ask the mooninites.

How much does it need to be worth to need a governor?

Posted by Chris Mann at January 16, 2006 06:15 AM

Appointing a "space Proconsul" would certainly hurt the hearts of some of the crowd, but having someone in charge of sensible regulation and defending property rights might just be the idea of the decade.

Posted by Mark R. Whittington at January 16, 2006 06:49 AM

Without government, private property would be impossible.

While the English "common law" system perhaps allows property rights with the least intrusive amount of government of any system in our species history, the common law is indeed a form of government. Judges and sheriffs to enforce judgments and all that.

Like I said, without government, private property would be impossible.

= = =

At last summer's Return to the Moon conference Wayen White (no relation) noted that even European jurists are starting to take seriously the idea of common law property rights without fiat by Terran governments.

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 07:32 AM

Mr. Mann, if there is no one to cripple with bureaucracy, it can't be all that crippling. "How much does it need to be worth to need a governor?" Good question. Oklahoma territory wasn't worth too much before it had a Governor.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 16, 2006 08:41 AM

Sounds a lot like saying you need to have a tapeworm in order to have an intestine. There's already a lot of government protection in space. Yet somehow we still don't have massive space development. I just don't see a good reason to add another layer when we don't have the economic justification for it.

Recall in the case of Oklahoma, the barrier to entry was low, there was significant economic opportunity, and that there was considerable benefit from the rule of law. In space, we have a high barrier to entry, a dearth of compelling economic opportunities, and a lot of government presence. This added layer isn't going to generate much benefits and may impose costs that outweigh its benefits.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at January 16, 2006 10:03 AM

We don't have fee simple property rights on the Moon and we did in OK. We had a land office for OK, but none for the Moon. Prior to the Louisiana Purchase and the appointment of a Governor of the Territory, the barrier to entry to Oklahoma was high. Propulsion, vehicles and other colonization expenses may be much higher for the Moon, but a Governor's office should cost less % of GDP than a comparable one for Oklahoma did. A Governor can create pseudo property rights, can promote, can draft laws for US entities, can lobby for good policies and regulations, can lobby for development subsidies and aid, can establish citizenship, can represent space entities that take up residence, can do land use planning, can grant concessions, can establish an intellectual property framework, a spectrum framework and more.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 16, 2006 10:59 AM

I support luanr property rights. However, which Terran nation shall define and extend those rights?
If private individuals begin to assert common law rights not arising from the legislative enactments of any one government, then Terran geo-politics might be reduced as a factor in challenging the asserted rights.

Once upon a time, the Pope divided South America between the Spanish and the Portugese. The French and English responded by asserting that the Pope lacked authority to made that division.

If the US Congress sets up a land grant office, France and China and others will whine on general principles. If a private company (with some French investors, allowed in out of prudence) asserts a claim without reliance on a US Act of Congress, there is a better chance that common law claim is recognized, globally.

Note, the United Nations has NO role in the foregoing scenario.

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 02:31 PM

I'll volunteer.

Posted by Ken Murphy at January 16, 2006 05:58 PM

Let them appoint a Governor too!

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 16, 2006 08:35 PM

I nominate Sam for "Crust Territory Governor" :P

All these legal underpinnings are themselves underpinned on a military status quo. That has not yet been established for space.

Posted by Kevin Parkin at January 16, 2006 10:16 PM

Lunar and Antarctic property rights are of a piece. Currently NO ONE has antarctic property rights. The same will be true of the moon, unless the Outer Space treaty is dropped. (unlikely)

If you want to solve lunar property rights, first resolve Antarctic property rights. Antarctica is accessible to vast amounts of people, easily within the technological reach of even the smallest first and second world nations, full of unique resources, and, unlike the moon, with a ready supply of air and water, and moderate temperatures (at least compared to the swings of the lunar surface).

Personally, I don't want to move there. I like warmth. But the fact is as it currently stands I wouldn't be allowed to anyway.

If we can't get property rights on the seventh continent, which is easily in reach of private corporations and individuals, how the hell can we ever expect property rights on the moon, which for the forseeable future will be the entire province of large governments?

Posted by cuddihy at January 17, 2006 09:44 AM

Actually, there is growing body of scholarly argument that the Outer Space Treaty does NOT prohibit property rights to minerals and resources actually mined (distinct from ownership of the underlying land).

Its like catching fish in international waters. You can own the fish you catch just not the ocean.

Same with lunar PGM or He3.

The non-interference clause of the Outer Space Treaty would prohibit China or Corporation B from moving equipment close enough to your equipment to pose a threat to people or gear. Just as Japan's tuna boats cannot manuever and cut the nets of competitors.

Posted by Bill White at January 17, 2006 09:55 AM

So how do you resolve the problem of places desired by more than one party?

Somehow, I doubt that if a private corporation landed equipment on the rim of Shackleton crater they could claim the whole rim for their own perpetual work under the guise of 'non-interference.'

The laws of the seas work precisely because they are over a shifting liquid with no intrinsic value on its own.

Note that when corporations do oil drilling 'in the open ocean' the rigs are universally legally tied to a nearby country that claims ownership(at least for legal purposes) of the mineral rights under the seabed. That requires actual property rights secured by a government. That growing body of scholarly argument about non-interference, while it might apply to a roving regolith sifter, is inapplicable to fixed, high-interest sites.

Posted by cuddihy at January 17, 2006 10:07 AM

So how do you resolve the problem of places desired by more than one party?

Great question. Me? I'd argue about placeholder presence versus real presence. Are you actually doing something useful? Like mining PGM or actually collecting and storing sunlight as electricity.

I have started making notes for a space law moot court based on the Chinese spreading a few hundred thousand square meters of fabric around the rim of Shackleton - - like that goofy performance artist guy who hangs stuff in Central Park - - but they claim its really a test of fabric degradation in lunar conditions and if the US moves the experiment, that constitutes "interference" as defined by the Outer Space Treaty.

How does this all play out? I dunno.

But if you have the money to initiate a lunar mining operation there are legitimate arguments under current law to suggest that no one can stop you.

The old adage "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered" also applies. If you leave plenty of other space for others to mine its harder to object to your operation. Based on the classic John Locke theory for the origins of property.

Posted by Bill White at January 17, 2006 10:34 AM

Follow up -

A roving regolith sifter is all you need for He3 mining, right?

PGM? Depends on how shattered the asteroid is. A sifter might be good enough. Otherwise, picking up large boulder fragments and moving them to your processing facility might be more like whaling that tuna fishing. Think Japanese whale factories.

Polar water ice? Okay - we got us a real legal battle exactly as you describe.

But that doesn't concern me much because I am in the Zubrin camp not Spudis camp on lunar ice - - there's a good chance there isn't any worthwhile ice amenable to being harvested. There is hydrogen there but maybe is trapped in brines or other solids and getting it out will be more expensive than shipping liquid H2 from Earth.

Lunar LOX? Who can complain? Set up your own LOX plant 1000 meters away and extract away. Plenty for everyone, right?

Posted by Bill White at January 17, 2006 10:40 AM

Maybe the current laws of the sea have some relevance. Who owns seamounts that are always below the tidal flow?

Posted by cuddihy at January 17, 2006 03:06 PM

Application of the "Law of the Sea" would not be good for my scenario. ;-)

Nonetheless the "Law of the Sea" is a treaty about the oceans, not the Moon and the "Moon Treaty" was explicitly rejected by many parties. So there is hope.

Posted by Bill White at January 17, 2006 08:31 PM

Wow! I had forgotten about deep sea manganese nodules

I even did a high school paper of the topic not knowing it all was a CIA cover story.

Posted by Bill White at January 17, 2006 09:10 PM

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