Outer Space Private Property Rights

iSETI Podcast 06/01/2008 (Duration 00:09:51)

 

 

I received an email from Dave Wasser announcing Alan Wasser and Doug Jobes’ paper SPACE SETTLEMENTS, PROPERTY RIGHTS, AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: COULD A LUNAR SETTLEMENT CLAIM THE LUNAR REAL ESTATE IT NEEDS TO SURVIVE? in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce Volume 73, Winter 2008, Number 1 and  the related article in the Boston Globe.

 I’m a strong supporter of private property rights in outer space. I like what Space Settlement Institute is doing.  Here are some of my thoughts on the Wasser-Jobes paper, and the Boston Globe article:

  1. First, Wasser-Jobes’ paper is much better than the Boston Globe article’s summary of it. I would recommend all of you read the paper.
  2. Ownership has to be real. Only real ownership is good enough. Lease or enterprise rights is not the way to go.
  3. Alaskan sized pieces with open bidding for sub-lots is a brilliant idea. Limited size will be a key to future international agreements.
  4. I don’t think a claim should be associated with anything else except for a prior human or robotic physical occupation. Yes, rides may imply physical occupation, but it is not as clear and direct as ‘physical occupation’.

Wasser-Jobes paper reaffirms my view that we are ready to move forward operationally. To this end there are three key operational issues,

1. Jurisdiction: It is apparent that jurisdiction will evolve from de facto civil law. Thus,

i. The ‘who’ that has the jurisdiction to recognize a sale or a claim is less important than the ability to make the claim (my interpretation).

ii. With a view to the future, the claim registering authority/council should become an Earth-independent ‘native’ council of that planetary body. So transfer of authority from Earth-based legal system to planet-based authority should be built in. This will prevent Earth-based wars over space-based property rights.

iii. We need to start claim registration that is open to all Earth citizens for outer space private property ownership to take hold across all nations.

a. Could the Google Lunar X-Prize contest be the way to piggy-back this claim registration process into reality? Then the real prize is not the $30 million but an Alaskan sized parcel on the Moon, and the first claimant or group of claimants, spins-off an independent self-sustaining claim registry for that entire outer space body.

b. I would recommend that the initial claims be bounded by a planet’s longitudinal and latitudinal lines. This makes property claims a lot less messy. Clear and easy demarcations are vital for peaceful settlement.

c. All planet or satellite property right claims be available on the Internet.

d. Very clear rules and guidelines be published in several languages for all Earth citizens to comment on and then abide by – a de facto civil law implementation – before outer space property right claims are executed.

2. Appropriate Treatment: Do we treat planetary bodies differently from asteroid-like objects, or even the stars? For example,

i. Planetary bodies need be parceled. Surface, subterranean, mineral and water rights. Water rights are vital in Colorado and the Western States, and will be critical on some planets and not on others. Should there be other rights like open space parks?

ii. Asteroid-like bodies can or should be claimed whole.

iii. How does one claim property rights on gas planets like Jupiter?

iv. Similarly, would commercial ‘mining’ of energy from a star require property claims?

v. Obviously there is the need for fairly sophisticated property rights registry software system.

3. Fair For All: How does one prevent in a legitimate manner a single entity from claiming everything in sight, and at the same time how does one enable as many participants as possible?

i. I think that a ‘single entity claiming everything in sight’ is the fear of all nations.

ii. Permitting private robotic occupation to claim finite-sized outer space property rights will enable many participants from many nations to participate in the creation of wealth from outer space, and thus build momentum towards and facilitate a de facto civil law property rights claim.

iii. How ironic, as this would also prevent ‘humanity’ as a single entity from claiming outer space as belonging to all humans! Everything belongs to everyone is worse than nothing belongs to nobody.

iv. I think this is the key to the Alaskan sized parcels. It gives enough to the occupant-owner to enable risk taking while at the same time providing enough left over for the late comers.

v. As Wasser and Jobes have stated that the subsequent resale of sub-lots enables everyone to participate, even if they do not yet have the technology to ride to these destinations.

In my opinion in the US the Homestead Act was a huge success because it enabled people with no wealth to claim property rights – by physical occupation – and then create new wealth from these occupied property rights.

This I believe should be the primary thrust of space-based property rights, that people with negligible wealth (i.e. most of us) are enabled to create new wealth from their finite-sized space-based property rights.

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About Benjamin Solomon
Ben Solomon is a Committee Member of the Nuclear and Future Flight Propulsion Technical Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA), and author of An Introduction to Gravity Modification and Super Physics for Super Technologies: Replacing Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger & Einstein (with Kindle Version)

One Response to Outer Space Private Property Rights

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