Space law vs the Outer Space Treaty

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My new op-ed at The Federalist is now online. Other than changing the title from my proposed version above to something a bit more unwieldy, “What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering,” they have posted it exactly as I wrote it.

The essay provides a very detailed analysis of the commercial space law that the House is presently considering. While they are proposing many good reforms, my conclusion unfortunately sums things up:

W.E.B. Du Bois, in studying the African slave trade, once asked, “How far in a State can a recognized moral wrong safely be compromised?” and answered his own question by saying that it is dangerous for “any nation, through carelessness and moral cowardice, [to allow] any social evil to grow. . . . From this we may conclude that it behooves nations as well as men to do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.”

The Outer Space Treaty poses limits on property rights. It also does not provide any mechanism for peacefully establishing sovereignty for any nation on any territory in space. Yet national sovereignty and territorial control is a given in all human societies. If we do nothing to establish a peaceful method for creating sovereignty and national territories in space, nations are going to find their own way to do it, often by force and violence. It behooves us to have the courage to face this issue now, and “do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.”

Read it all.



  • Something

    No treaty –> Space Pirates.
    Space Piracy –> Freedom?

  • ken anthony

    I look forward to reading the article. My sugar is low and I have a massive headache at the moment, but it is such an important topic. I intend to research a bit more about foundations of a free people. I’ve got about a quarter of a book written where this topic is not central, but about as close as you can get without it being.

    Scripture says that humans are not qualified “to direct their own step.” I’d like to not believe that, but the evidence is over whelming. Still we must try.

    What I find difficult about writing is presenting the counter argument to things that appear to me to be self evident. It is a marvel that our founders were able to do it. They had each other for honest debate. Today, that honesty seems to be gone? It’s all agenda driven now.

    This is a perfect example where the counter argument is pure fraud.

  • Edward

    From Robert’s op-ed: “The problem remains, however. Such an approach does not provide a system to establish borders or property lines. No one will know where one company’s property ends and another begins.

    Good fences make good neighbors.” — Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

    Frost’s meaning is that it is important for neighbors to have a clear understanding of the property line. It would be trouble for one neighbor to claim the other’s apples or the other to claim the first’s pine trees. The Outer Space Treaty (OST) seems to forbid the very walls that make good neighbors. How did the OST’s authors think that we were going to be able to do anything useful with space resources?

    Once we have colonists in space, they are likely to desire self governance, at some point. Does the OST only apply to Earthbound sovereign nations and allows for these people to claim their own independent, offworld sovereignty, laws, and property?

    I didn’t think so.

    The current OST seems to be setting us up for a future revolution, in which colonists in space declare independence. After all, the OST only takes into account the concerns that Earthlings had in the 20th century, not the concerns that colonists in space will actually experience. It also seems to violate the very concerns that Earth’s colonists had in the 16th through 20th centuries. So much for learning from history or from experience.

    Under the OST, who owns the housing that space colonists live in? Who owns the shop where they purchase their food and other goods? How did the concept of “the company store” work out on Earth? One song told us that the workers ended up owing their souls to it, despite loading sixteen tons.

    Under OST, we run the risk of Earth law creating oppression for space colonists, due to the ignorance by the lawmakers of the needs of the colonists.

    it behooves nations as well as men to do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.

    For future space colonists, that very moment is approaching, and we have an opportunity to fix their problem.

  • ken anthony

    There are two huge problems I see that are both implied and false.

    1) Citizens as subjects. 2) Jurisdiction.

    The nation you are in determines the laws that apply. Any law enforcement in any place is a claim of sovereignty which is prohibited in the case of the OST which deals with liability.

    The principle in the declaration of independence is local governance…

    [Govt.] has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant (another planet) from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

    For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

    This is further defined as a tyranny unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Also defined as an unwarrantable jurisdiction which is certainly true of a small colony that could not harm the Earth in any way.

    The difference is between citizen and subject is immense. Subject is derived from the Latin words, sub and jacio, and means one who is under the power of another; but a citizen is an unit of a mass of free people, who, collectively, possess sovereignty.

    A subject is the property of a country. A citizen is in theory self determining.

    The legal statements we see assume jurisdiction that doesn’t exist.

  • Edward, and all my readers: Please feel free to post comments at the Federalist to my op-ed. It probably does more good there right now than it does here.

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