Last Thursday in my News and Views from the Nerfarium I talked about a study done by a Johns Hopkins University professor who cautions that a human presence in space is likely to be in some form of totalitarianism, rather than of increased freedom. I've been warning about this for years, but I'm not a Johns Hopkins professor but rather a hack from South Dakota, so no one was paying much attention. But my reasoning was essentially that of the professor: with human colonies off-world and in hostile environments, rigid protocols will have to govern human behavior in order for such colonies to survive, and that will place a premium on mechanisms of control, and thought itself will be watched closely to ensure that concepts "threatening to overall survivability" (as defined by the people running such colonies) do not arise.
In any case, so many people spotted the following story it would be impossible for me to thank all of you individually for bring this story to our attention, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you following this story, and sharing the latest developments.
And the latest developments are in my opinion scary, but they do give occasion for some serious reflection, and in my case, a "rant warning."
Elon Musk of Tesla automobiles and SpaceX fame has made yet another pronouncement, this time stating explicitly that any Mars colony he might develop will be independent and self-governing. Sounds good, right? But wait till you read the small print:
The claims were spotted buried in Starlink's beta consumer service terms that was recently sent to customers ahead of the internet rollout.
Dubbed 'Governing Laws,' the section states SpaceX will not abide by international laws beyond Earth and the moon, but instead adopt self-governing principles 'established on good faith.'
Sounds nice and fluffy... all jonquils and daisies. But then the article cites this:
For services provided to, on, or in orbit around planet Earth or the Moon, these Terms and any disputes between us arising out of or related to these Terms, including disputes regarding arbitrability ("Disputes") will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California in the United States. For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.
I don't know about you, but I get the creepy feeling that we're looking at an end-of-the-war Hitler, hiding in his bunker and playing with the big models of the grandiose buildings he and Albert Speer had planned to build in Berlin in his goal to remake the capital of the "thousand year Reich."
But putting aside my creepy feeling for a moment and turning attention to my other feelings, I can only record my absolute horror of extending the laws of one-party-state Nuttyfornia into near-Earth space. Laws are only as good as the people making them, and interpreting them. Thus, the thought of Maxine Waters, Nasty Piglosi, Diane Feinstein, Gavin Gruesome, Camel Harris or any of the other witches and warlocks stirring the bubbling cauldron of space law in accordance with anything having to do with the law, policy, and leadership of the insanity called Nuttyfornia has me absolutely apoplectic. What Mr. Musk is essentially proposing - or rather, signaling - is that any contract you - or anyone else inclined to take one of his space cruises to the the Moon - may subscribe will be governed by the laws of one of the most corrupt and kooky states in the Union. It conjures visions in my head of the asteroid belt being turned into San Franfreakshow, with tent cities, drugs, needles, and the Department of Defense tracking weightless human sewage.
Nuttyfornia in space.
All this admittedly emotional ranting and purple prose brings me to my central point. One thing I've been trying to warn about for some time - in fact, going all the way back to my teaching days in college - is the dubious status of the corporation in western jurisprudence. On occasion I've pointed out that corporate charters do not ever include the Bill of Rights, and that maybe they should. After all, if they want to act like sovereign entities, then under that same system of law, that means they must acknowledge certain principles and limits to that soveriegnty. But notably, Mr. Musk gives us platitudes of such vagueness and ambivalence that behind all the jonquils and daisies about "self-governing principles" that are "established in good faith," there's no mention whatsoever of what those might be. Under these vague and glittering generalities, almost any political entity in human history could be construed as "self-governing," from the dicatus Papae of the medieval Papacy to the Soviet Union to the "council tables" of organized crime.
In short, there's no mention whatsoever of the Bill of Rights, or other hallmarks of the western tradition such as the Nuremberg code, and so on. Indeed, "self-governance" sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, until one remembers that in current American jurisprudence, the corporation is a persona ficta in law, implying that the "self" in "self-governance" could simply be the "self" of the corporation establishing the colony, rather than the selves of the real human persons establishing and living in it. Indeed, I've often commented that the Bill of Rights was, per our constitutional history, a "Bill of Afterthoughts," which should tell us something. It was not front and center as it should have been; they were "afterthoughts" added after-the-fact, and only at the insistence of the Anti-Federalists. Here, with Musk, we're not even dealing with Afterthoughts any more.
Indeed, he makes it very clear: "The parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities." Read in a particular way, that could mean that "no Earth-based system or philosophy of government, policy, or law shall inform any government as may be constructed for Mars." It's a way of wiping the slate completely clean by breaking utterly with the past.
And that, I contend, should give everyone pause, because like the Anti-Federalists of yesteryear, I'm detecting the distinct malodor of tyranny.
See you on the flip side...