Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's wrong with the Space Settlement Prize Act

It has a noble purpose.
The Space Settlement Prize Act is a draft law proposed by The Space Settlement Institute that would create, at no cost to taxpayers, a multi-billion dollar incentive for private companies to finance and build permanent settlements on the Moon and/or Mars. Included in the legislation is the requirement that these companies build an Earth-Moon or Earth-Mars space line open to all paying passengers.
I fully support the goals I've highlighted. However, I have a number of concerns regarding the details of the act and the results it would promote or might produce. I am also thrilled that Rand has written an article that seems to be really taking the discussion of ET property rights to a wider audience.

Part of the problem comes from how you argue law: Civil, Common or Natural. Some ways put sovereigns in the drivers seat where others kind of don't. I'm not a lawyer so I see things a bit simpler.

Unclaimed land is claimed; then you defend that claim.

Title is then legal recognition that ownership exists. You mitigate conflict by having people agree to terms. This is one of the noble goals of the Space Settlement Initiative.

The first problem: How large a claim the U.S. should recognize would be up to Congress to decide.

I completely disagree. I understand the motive which is to mitigate disputes, but there's a better way that doesn't hand this authority over to congress which already assumes too much power in our lives. The proper role of congress would be to recognize claims made under a separate authority closer to the actions. That authority would be the claimers themselves under a settlement charter which limits the method and size of claims to a small reasonable amount per individual (by actual possession of simply putting a boot on the ground of a previous registered plot) which still provides enough wealth so they may easily engage in productive economic activity for their entire life. These pioneers are risking their lives and should have just compensation.

The settlement initiative turns this incentive on it's head by making settlers pay a company for pieces of it's huge unreasonable claim (which many see as a land grant, again putting nations in charge where they aught not be.)

Then in section five of the prize it creates unnecessary obligations on the claimant to arrange for transportation. Again, I understand the noble goal but there is a better way. Let the people going buy their own ticket from any company willing to provide that transport. It's known as free enterprise.

This ticket can be financed by banks (another of those free enterprise concepts) simply by making the individuals single claims large enough that they can sell portions (developed and undeveloped) over time to cover finance payments.

But would banks actually be willing to finance? Absolutely if they see a profit that more than covers their risks.

One possibility is to let colonists make additional claims under conditions that limit those additional claim but does ensure on time payments to the financing banks. I may have more to say on that in another post.

Update: As noted, I'm not a lawyer. But it would move my proposal forward if I did have a Settlement Charter written by a lawyer so others can pick it apart. This poor boy will look into that (and hopes he doesn't get laughed out of too many offices in the process.) Any lawyer willing to offer this poor boy some help?

Update: This article asks...
What if the first time a Chinese probe lands on the moon, the moon could be claimed by the 'Great Wall Company,' owned by the People’s Liberation Army? The United States would then be left to argue that our law should be followed, but the Chinese law shouldn’t. That’s precisely the kind of territorial jockeying the Outer Space Treaty was intended to prevent.
The problem is the OST's solution is trying to prevent any private property. The Settlement Charter acknowledges this problem by ignoring it. You make claim; you defend claim. One defense is simply to not acknowledge other sovereign claims. There is so much land and so little capability today of getting there that no nation is going to go to war over it any time soon. So let free enterprise do it's thing and win. "We win; they lose" should be the motto backed up by thousand of independent souls.

Then let all nations of the earth decide if they will recognize those titles or not. We could encourage them to do so after establishing the fact of colonization.

Update: Settlement Charter.

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