Gregg is absolutely right about Bezos and I'd go further in that the first reaction of the vast majority is to tell others what they should do (even at the trivial level)... I may sound like that with my focus on mars, but the reality is I couldn't back the following statement any greater:
...allowing people to go wherever they want, including Mars, should be the goal....and assuming this definition I am certainly not the following:
[Planetary chauvinism] is a term to describe a commonly held belief that human society will always be planet-based (even if extended beyond Earth.)I do believe going to mars now is the best way to open up the entire solar system and beyond. I will try to explain...
I've been playing strategic games for over forty years. One thing you can't help but notice is little choices have huge influences on future expansion. If you don't think games have real world application you haven't paid attention to how the military trains. They don't have the luxury of less effective measures. Games are serious. (Here's one that can take months of commitment.)
So I look at expansion into the universe as an economic and social game. What's the most effective way to do it?
The first principle is top down or bottom up. People like Bezos, that would tell us all what we should do, are top down people. This only works within limits and is severely counter productive outside those strict limits. This is the communist model. Musk just wants to sell tickets. If you don't want to go to mars then don't buy a ticket. If you do buy a ticket you are free to make your own choices once on mars. Musk will still try to sell you stuff, but not to limit your choices. This is the free enterprise model. (Off topic: Mars One wants colonists to all be their employees and doesn't support private property rights.)
What leads to the fastest expansion is individual freedom of choice... a very bottom up way of doing things. Ironically, almost every published plan to colonize mars is of the top down variety. Done that way, mars offers little advantage over other options. Why mars is the preferred first colony is because it's the only place in the solar system that does offer the freedom of individual actions. Nothing else comes close. Why?
Once on mars, colonists can independently gather their own choice of resources to pursue their own individual dreams. This is a major restriction both in space and on the moon. Space certainly has vast resources but gathering them for use is the problem. The moon is worse since some resources are missing and will have to be imported. Paradoxically, having vast resources can be a problem when you have more than you need of some things but not of others. That vastness does you no good when it's more than you can use. Productivity and expansion happen fastest with just enough resources along with the individual pursuit of happiness.
In space, you live on a ship... perhaps a big ship having smaller boats, but still a ship. Ships have captains (by definition these are top down rulers.) As a member of the crew, your choices are limited to what you are allowed. Unless your dream is limited to the ships you can't follow them. Down the road you may be able to change to other ships that more closely align with personal goals (maybe?) but that will not be the case for quite some time.
A mars colony will also stimulate space infrastructure. With a steady flow of colonist, ways to improve costs will have what Musk calls a forcing function. Elon correctly points out that growth is not automatic. Without these forcing functions things can easily become stagnate. What looks like advances may only be spinning wheels (leaving behind a series of very expensive and wasteful ghost town ventures.)
I don't want to get into the weeds about how mars allows individual freedom (which seems self evident to me) so I'll just end this here.
Update: I don't think I've been clear enough about individual freedom. How can it be denied? One way is to be the only source of a critical need. That can't happen when free people are multiple providers. Think about attacks on ball bearing factories during WW2. I mean, why ball bearings? Because it was a critical need for war machines (well almost any machine actually.) The moon will have critical imports of basic life essential elements that are rare on the moon... thus not independent (being only three days away doesn't help independence either.)
Mars is not missing a single essential element and not being picked over for thousands of years means lots of low hanging fruit for the early colonists. It will be an industrial paradise. Unless the top down control freaks find a way to prevent it.