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John Adams Must Be Smiling

This post, linked by Glenn from the ISDC, reminds me of this post I wrote when this blog was only four months old. It's not that long, so I'll repeat. It was titled (as shown over in the left sidebar) "Why This Blog Bores People With Space Stuff":

As a follow up to today's rant over our "allies" in Europe, over at USS Clueless, Steven den Beste has an excellent disquisition on the fundamental differences between Europe and the U.S. They don't, and cannot, understand that the U.S. exists and thrives because it is the UnEurope, that it was built by people who left Europe (and other places) because they wanted freedom.

I say this not to offer simply a pale imitation of Steven's disquisition (which is the best I could do, at least tonight), but to explain why I spend so much time talking about space policy here. It's not (just) because I'm a space nut, or because I used to do it for a living, and so have some knowledge to disseminate. It's because it's important to me, and it should be important to everyone who is concerned about dynamism and liberty.

And the reason that it's important is because there may be a time in the future, perhaps not even the distant future, when the U.S. will no longer be a haven for those who seek sanctuary from oppressive government. The trends over the past several decades are not always encouraging, and as at least a social insurance policy, we may need a new frontier into which freedom can expand.

Half a millenium ago, Europe discovered a New World. Unfortunately for its inhabitants (who had discovered it previously), the Europeans had superior technology and social structures that allowed them to conquer it.

Now, in the last couple hundred years, we have discovered how vast our universe is, and in the last couple decades, we have discovered how rich in resources it is, given will and technology. As did the eastern seaboard of the present U.S. in the late eighteenth century, it offers mankind a fertile petri dish for new societal arrangements and experiments, and ultimately, an isolated frontier from which we will be able to escape from possible future terrestrial disasters, whether of natural or human origin.

If, as many unfortunately in this country seem to wish, freedom is constricted in the U.S., the last earthly abode of true libertarian principles, it may offer an ultimate safety valve for those of us who wish to continue the dream of the founders of this nation, sans slavery or native Americans--we can found it without the flawed circumstances of 1787.

That is why space, and particularly free-enterprise space, is important.


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_Jon wrote:

I like your post.

My comment relates to how the US government (and others) seem to believe that they have (or will have) some control over what groups do in space. Who the heck do they think they are?

For example, if I had a company that funded, developed, and implemented a space station - or a colony on Mars - what makes an Earth Government believe that I would abide by *any* of their rules. That's pretty arrogant, IMO.

Anonymous wrote:

"what makes an Earth Government believe that I would abide by *any* of their rules."

Because if you don't, they will make things unpleasent for you. I suspect that for the first century or so of human expansion into the Solar System, Earth governments will have plenty of say about what happens (which is why I prefer that America--which at least sometimes pretends to be in favor of liberty--be the dominate space power and not China, a country which tryly practises the art of political power from the barrel of a gun.)

Eventually, though, some space settlement--Mars for instance--will send out something that starts like this: "When in the course of human events..." and it will be up to whatever Earth governments are extant in the year 2150 or so as to whether they are allowed to go in peace or else have to fight for independence.

Fletcher Christian wrote:

To both of the previous commenters:

Yes, you're right. Sooner or later, the peoples of the larger Solar System will send a similar message to the one that the American settlers sent to George III.

And the result will be the same. Heinlein got to this first, as he usually did, in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". Why? Space is the ultimate high ground.

It won't be Mars, either; it will be a cloud of myriad settlements, together much more powerful than Old Earth.

Bob1 wrote:

I believe we won't make it. Our schools no longer teach about the fundamentals on which America was founded. As a result, today's younger generations don't know the difference between liberal democracy (by "liberal" I mean classical liberalism) and socialism. They have no idea what the Cold War was all about. To them, the tenor of any given nation's government is simply a matter of the personality of the leadership.

As a result, America is becoming ripe for conquest by the socialist demagoguery coming from the Democrats. Most Americans honestly don't realize what's at stake. Unfortunately for the US, the Republicans can't articulate the threat.

If current trends continue (moreso if Obama wins in November), I predict the style of American government will be indistinguishable from Europe in a dozen years. Twenty years tops.

Now that I have a grandchild, I have wondered even more what my people (defined loosely) would do if America were no longer America. I hadn't thought far enough ahead to think of space settlement.

We are Christians, and I raised my children to expect a post-Christian world. Colonization might again be most attractive to those who believe that they could better practice their religion in another place. As PJ O'Rourke noted, wagging his finger at Janet Reno. "this country was FOUNDED by religious nuts with guns."

Just for the record, European diseases did much more of the destruction at first. 90-95% of the native population was unintentionally wiped out by disease before they had ever seen a white face. The technology and social structures came in after.

ken anthony wrote:

I wonder what the likely demographic of spece settlers will be?

Stewart wrote:

I also fear it may be too late. We've spent over three decades without doing the R&D needed for routine access to space, as energy prices rose (and rose, and rose...) while our industrial base was exported. I hope and pray that the work of Musk, Bezos, Carmack, Bigelow, et. al., is not too late. It feels -- and I know this is just a gut feeling -- like we've only a narrow window of opportunity left, and that the window is closing. Certainly I see no politicians with any inkling of vision; it's more likely that human spaceflight will be banned so "that money can better be spent on the children."

Sorry to make such a depressing comment. I hope I'm very, very, very wrong!

Jethro wrote:

I wonder how the independence of US space settlements would go if our government and social structures were more like the 19th century though.

While it's true that even the West was more proximate to the settled parts of the US than the colonies were to England, none of the Western territories successfully sought independence (though being forced to travel by land rather than see might in reality make the West just as distant in a way). There might have been movements afoot or attempts, but not that caught fire and made a big dent on history as far as I know.

Part of the reason for that might be that the US Constitution has built in rules for expansion, with the intent being that newly settled regions eventually become partners in the national government, as opposed to vassal-status like the traditional colonies of Europe or former US possessions like Cuba or the Philippines.

So my question is, could that model hold with rockets instead of railroads for the United States of the Space Age? Is having a say in the national/interplanetary government enough to bind the US's colonies into new States? The problem might be that it could be for the majority of the people, especially if the US was applying its national laws to the colonies. They'd never even get a taste of freedom to rebel over.

Though eventually the model might need some shaking up. One could eventually see entire planets of hundred of millions of people being miffed that they have the same number of Senators as Wyoming.

As an aside, I wish more people would bring up the addition of states when ideas for an EU-like North American Union get thrown out, like the President of Mexico has suggested. There's already a free-trade zone union of states in North America. Membership is just a successful petition of the Congress of the United States away...

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on May 31, 2008 11:22 AM.

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