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Moon Space The Almighty Buck

The Case for Lunar Property Rights 387

Posted by timothy
from the title-check's-a-bitch dept.
longacre writes "Who owns the moon? In a thought provoking piece, Instapundit blogger/law professor Glenn Reynolds gives us a brief history of earthlings' discourse on lunar property rights, a topic which has stagnated since the 1979 Moon Treaty. Is it possible to claim good title on land that is not under the dominion of a nation? He goes on to plead his case for the creation of lunar real estate legislation. From the article: 'Property rights attract private capital and, with government space programs stagnating, a lunar land rush may be just what we need to get things going again.'"
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The Case for Lunar Property Rights

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  • by mu11ing1t0ver (1175051) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:41AM (#23501920)
    I think if anyone can actually get to the moon, they'll have a valid claim on it.
    • Replace "Mars" with "Moon [capmag.com]

      The investors laugh. This planet we will own, they ask, is it Earth? No? Well, then, how much is it worth? The investors explain to the Mars expert: Owning Mars-getting all the way to Mars and back-is getting to first base. In order to have a successful venture, a venture to invest in, the property must be valuable.

      How valuable? $10 billion? Hardly. A successful, manned Mars mission, according to the most optimistic estimates, would take a minimum of 10 years from planning to completion. Venture capital firms, in order to justify their high-risk investments, seek a minimum of 10 times growth in their investment over five years. And they want to be able to "cash out"-to sell their initial investment if they want to. Assuming that the $10 billion would be spent smoothly over the 10 years (i.e., tying up the capital an average of five years), means that after the successful mission, Mars would have to be worth at least $100 billion in order to justify the investment of $10 billion. A hundred billion is almost $3 an acre.

      Now, even after a successful, manned Mars mission, why would other investors pay the original venture capitalists $100 billion for Martian land? (Why would they even pay $100 million, or one million?) The land would be almost completely undeveloped. For anyone to invest in such a risky proposition, there would have to be a reasonable chance for the land to be worth at least 10 times as much five years later-one trillion dollars, 15 years after the beginning of the original project.

      That's almost $30 an acre. Today, you can still buy range land in New Mexico for $40 an acre. And that is with Earth's atmosphere included, and substantially lower transportation and energy costs.

      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:43AM (#23502252)
        It's a reasonable argument, but you seem to be assuming the only purpose of land is to live on. Hardly. There's a reason that range land in NM is $40 an acre and Manhattan real estate is probably roughly a million times more. It's what you can do there that matters.

        So what can you do on the Moon that would make it so fabulously valuable? Beats me. The only unique resources the Moon has (exceedingly low temperatures in the shade, unbelievably good vacuum) you can also get in orbit, where you don't have to worry about any gravity at all, and can build eight-mile wide factories out of gossamer and shoe strings, if you want.

        But it could happen. Suppose it turns out 1/6 gee allows you (don't ask me how) to grow perfect crystals of membrane-bound proteins fast and easy, something nearly impossible to do on Earth. That could lead to the possibility of rational design of fantastically valuable drugs, e.g. genuine cancer cures and the like. What would that be worth? Very likely far more than $100 billion. (The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor will have earned its inventors about $65 billion by the time its patent expires in 2010.)
        • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:10AM (#23502374) Homepage Journal

          There's a reason that range land in NM is $40 an acre and Manhattan real estate is probably roughly a million times more.
          Manhattan land is expensive because lots of people work nearby and so lots of people want to live there - simple supply and demand. With the New Mexico land you could at least raise cattle on it (they breathe air, remember).

          It's what you can do there that matters.
          Indeed, and I'm not seeing a lot that you can do on the moon. It certainly fails the comparison with Manhattan and New Mexico.
        • by nospam007 (722110) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:46AM (#23502556)

          So what can you do on the Moon that would make it so fabulously valuable?

          You could mine the cheese.
        • by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:50AM (#23502572)

          So what can you do on the Moon that would make it so fabulously valuable? Beats me.

          Well, you may have answered that question yourself: speculative investment. There are companies (and even individuals) who can afford to throw a billion dollars away on pure speculation. Let's say there's a 50% chance the land will never be worth anything; a 49% chance you'll eventually at least recover the costs and maybe make a small profit (e.g. in a century or two when moon tourism is viable); and a 1% chance that some discovery makes the land incredibly worth valuable. It might well be worth dumping some otherwise idle capital into securing a piece of the land at dirt cheap prices just in case it turns out to be a goldmine.

          The real question is, who assigns property rights? What makes them meaningful? Maybe the UN should allocate a bunch of land to each country with a reasonable claim (i.e. viable spam programme) with the caveat that they actually have to stake out their lands for their claim to be cemented. Something like placing solar powered beacons every few hundred square kilometres, and after a certain deadline other countries can start beaconing "your" land (inaction would be an indication you don't want the land). While this won't be particularly appealing to most countries due to the enormous cost involved, if someone decides to go for it (e.g. Russia) then are the US and China and anyone else interested going to sit back while other countries get internationally-recognised moon real estate?

          Realistically the US would probably just block the resolution before it left Earth, but it's an interesting idea: essentially forcing a space race with a real concrete, complicated mission.

          • by Notegg Nornoggin (1175269) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:01AM (#23502598)

            Maybe the UN should allocate a bunch of land to each country with a reasonable claim (i.e. viable spam programme)
            Greetings!

            I am the son of the former Nigerian Ministry for Lunar Development and I have a large sum of money held in his locked bank account...
          • by VagaStorm (691999)
            It wil only urge, russia, us, china and maybe france and japan to make alot of unmaned satelites capable of carpetbombing the solarsystem with smal portable solarpowerstations. ;..;
          • by raddan (519638) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:23AM (#23504144)
            Basically, it boils down to: it belongs to whomever can defend it. That's the way it works on Earth-- I don't think that'll change on the Moon, or on Mars. Lobbing rocks at Earth, anyone?

            Anyone who invests in lunar real estate before any kind of lunar authority is established, backed up by force, is an idiot.
            • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:34AM (#23506048)
              And the first person to get to the moon and establish a permanent outpost there will have authority that no Earth agency can contest with much success. Bonus if that first person is backed by some government that doesn't care much what the rest of the world thinks.

              Hey, look, the US is planning to establish a permanent moon colony by 2020. As is China. There will be some fireworks over this, folks.
        • by jamesh (87723)

          So what can you do on the Moon that would make it so fabulously valuable?

          Well... you could build a casino, with blackjack, and hookers. You know the rest.
        • by cronius (813431) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:02AM (#23503842)
          So what can you do on the Moon that would make it so fabulously valuable? Beats me. The only unique resources the Moon has (exceedingly low temperatures in the shade, unbelievably good vacuum) you can also get in orbit, where you don't have to worry about any gravity at all, and can build eight-mile wide factories out of gossamer and shoe strings, if you want.
          Helium-3. Lots on the moon, little on Earth. Can be used to build fusion reactors.

          http://www.spacedaily.com/2004/041126084122.6pp9f0wx.html [spacedaily.com]

          "The moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of Helium 3 than all the fossil fuels on the earth," Kalam said.
      • by bloodninja (1291306) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @07:08AM (#23502924)

        That's almost $30 an acre. Today, you can still buy range land in New Mexico for $40 an acre. And that is with Earth's atmosphere included, and substantially lower transportation and energy costs.
        So, Martian land is less expensive than New Mexico land? And it is located in an isolated, relatively secluded place that even the US government has difficulty getting to? The Scientologists and Davidians will be crawling all over it now that the cat is out of the bag!
    • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:49AM (#23501980)
      Even if opening of private property on the moon is allowed, and it creates a rush to buy property, all that would happen is that the property speculators will buy it up cheap and sit on it until it is worth something. There is no incentive for them to do anything with it after they have brought it.

      Hence your idea actually has some merit to it. If we force people to go to the moon, and "fence off" a bit of their property this could help speed up the space industry.
      • by servognome (738846) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:04AM (#23502048)

        Even if opening of private property on the moon is allowed, and it creates a rush to buy property, all that would happen is that the property speculators will buy it up cheap and sit on it until it is worth something. There is no incentive for them to do anything with it after they have brought it.
        That's not how many purchases of state property works, it's not about a piece of paper, nor is it about putting up a fence. Developers place bids (cash and project proposals) to develop the property and written into the contract is the requirement to meet those proposals. That prevents people from buying land and sitting on it, and contractually binds them to meet the goals set out. So a developer will make a bid on land to place a shopping mall, another may want to build an amusement park, what the sale does is allow planning of how best to use the property.
        Government sale of property isn't so much about raising money, it's about managing a limited resource.
        • Proposal: 100km parcel used to display advertisement. Ads will be deliverd by earth based gigawattlaser. Owner not worried about requirement for defending said parcel.
      • by kanweg (771128) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:33AM (#23502492)
        All you need is 10 meters (yards, retards) of fence. Put it up, and create a home in what others would call "outside" the fence but you call inside the fence because that is where your home is. The tiny spot is left for others.

        Bert
        Who'd hate to see the moon mined for He3. We're already wrecking a planet, we should have learned something from that.
    • by QuantumPete (1247776) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:50AM (#23501984) Journal
      But that'd mean that the US already owns the entire moon, being the only nation to ever have set foot there (and even planted a flag). They didn't say "I claim this island (trabant) in the name of blah." but with some careful editing of the historical footage, I'm sure that could be rectified ;-)
    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:23AM (#23502162)
      I believe that the Moon is covered by the Law of the Sea, which also covers Space.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_on_the_Law_of_the_Sea [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_law [wikipedia.org]

      Thats one of the reasons that nations with space craft on the Moon, Venus and Mars are adamant about the objects not being abandoned, similar to the US listening devices clamped onto Soviet communication cables saying who owned said super-secret listening devices.

      So, for example, Mars Pathfinder is not derelict, but jetsam, flotsam or lagan which is remains the property of their original owner. The American bird that was shot down by the Navy this year, might technically be a derelict and could be salvaged legally, had it come down mostly intact.
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:59AM (#23502594) Homepage

        I believe that the Moon is covered by the Law of the Sea, which also covers Space.

        It isn't and it doesn't.
         
         

        So, for example, Mars Pathfinder is not derelict, but jetsam, flotsam or lagan which is remains the property of their original owner.

        Mars Pathfinder isn't any of those four legal states - it is clearly and plainly the property of the USG. Period. This is plainly spelled out in the various treaties that address the issue.
         
        This same principle is found in Maritime Law, where government property always remains government property unless the government specifically gives up jurisdiction. (This is the legal principle under which the US Government supervised the salvage of the Hunley - since the USG had assumed control of all CSA property at the close of the Civil War, and neither government had ever yielded title.)
         
         

        The American bird that was shot down by the Navy this year, might technically be a derelict and could be salvaged legally, had it come down mostly intact.

        The various treaties that address the topic are quite clear - in space, as on earth, government property remains government property forever unless specifically yields title.
  • Gravity well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced (323149) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:47AM (#23501968) Journal
    Let's be real, the moon is never going to be like Florida, even if it's really sunny and the reduced gravity helps even feeble elderly people play golf (those big craters come really handy there!) Even if it could be, the powers that be cannot really allow private property in the moon, or private developments in space. Just read a bit of SF. The Earth sits in the bottom of a gravity well. It cannot allow people outside (or almost outside) of that gravity well, with the possibility of throwing down big stones, and no fear of reprisals. Only big changes in technology could change that reality.

    • Re:Gravity well (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Quadraginta (902985) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:31AM (#23502200)
      Um, yes. But the Moon does not sit at rest at the top of that well. You can't just "let things drop" and hope they'll hit the Earth. They won't. Anything at rest relative to the Moon is orbiting the Earth just as fast as the Moon, and will continue to "miss" the Earth just like the Moon does, forever.

      Look at it this way. Say you're speeding above my mailbox in a low-flying plane at 300 MPH. Can you, at the moment you pass over, "just drop" a bag of dogshit onto my mailbox to express your opinion? Nope. The only way you can hit the mailbox is to throw it backwards at 300 MPH, which is pretty tough, pretty expensive if you need rockets and stuff to get that kind of velocity.

      It's a little easier to hit the Earth with rocks from the Moon, because you can make use of the Earth's atmosphere; you only have to graze the atmosphere and friction will do the rest, gradually, although when you're counting on friction heating to use up a metric fuckload of kinetic energy, you may have additional problems keeping your bombs from melting and vaporizing, unless they really are just rocks.

      Furthermore, the real stiff part of the gravity well is only from the surface to low Earth orbit. You can almost as easily reach the Moon from there as you can reach the Earth from the Moon. So the Lunies are going to have to extend (and enforce) their territorial claims down to within about 150 miles of the Earth's surface if they really want to be safe from reprisals. Good luck with that. Remember the Chinese ASAT test? Relatively easy to blow stuff out of low orbit.
    • Let's be real, the moon is never going to be like Florida,

      Oh God! That's all we need.

      Rockets flying really slow with one of their blinkers on all the way. Those big fuel guzzling RV rockets with the little shuttles on the back. Old guys pontificating how in their day, they held their breath on the Moon - and loved it, none of this space suit crap that makes today's youth so soft! How he could have bought the Sea of Tranquility for $5.00 and look how rich he could be - especially with the malls going up,

  • Hill of beans (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:47AM (#23501970) Homepage
    "Property rights" won't amount to a hill of beans to the first person to get up there, stand on the spot and say "this is mine".

    In other words, property rights are unenforcable, and none of the existing governments on earth have any real say. What government is going to spend 10 billion on space hardware to settle a legal property ownership/squatting claim?

    In yet other words, possession is 9/10 of the law. Go ahead and argue about the other 1/10, because you don't matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846)

      "Property rights" won't amount to a hill of beans to the first person to get up there, stand on the spot and say "this is mine". In other words, property rights are unenforcable, and none of the existing governments on earth have any real say. What government is going to spend 10 billion on space hardware to settle a legal property ownership/squatting claim?
      In yet other words, possession is 9/10 of the law. Go ahead and argue about the other 1/10, because you don't matter.

      That's all well and good if prop

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcelrath (8027)

        A govenment/regulatory body doesn't have to deal with you on the moon, they just cut you off from supplies and arrest you the minute you step foot on earth.

        Any offworld settlement had better be self-sufficient, or you have much bigger problems than local authorities at your supply depot. And if it's self sufficient, who cares about some local authority hundreds of thousands of miles (and billions of dollars) away?

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by mazarin5 (309432)

      1^2=1; (-1)^2=1; 1^2=(-1)^2; 1=-1; 1=0.
      Don't be stupid. The result is obviously 2=0.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Icarus1919 (802533)
      In a sense, no government has a REAL say about property rights anyway. It's the guns that have the say.
    • The Outer Space Treaty (which the US has signed) states, "outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means"

      Since no state can claim ownership then the property laws of that state do not apply, so any claims of private ownership under those property laws do not apply? Only international property laws can apply ...?

  • Sorta? Maybe? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 3HackBug77 (983153)
    The real question I see here is who actually decides the ruling on this situation, there isn't any kind of universal agency made to deal with this. So until there is I think most people would be satisfied with: "I own this land because I can defend it against you"
  • by iamacat (583406) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:49AM (#23501982)
    As a human born on planet Earth, I have a right to a plot of land for sustenance and shelter, in reasonable proximity to where I was born. This should supersede property rights of the mega-rich, even if my parents bargained away the rights. At most, the land can be loaned from humanity for an exclusive use of one person for a limited time. Lets not start the same heartless trend on Moon or even try to live there until we can behave decently on Earth.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:01AM (#23502032)
      You can see the outcome of this kind of "property-is-theft" attitude in china. There land in the countryside for farming is state owned and city land is privately owned. The net result is that the poor in the cities have some hope of social mobility as there is availability of collateral to raise capital, fund enterprise and create jobs. In the country, farmers have no way to raise funds to start their own businesses or improve their farms, leaving them dependent on the state to improve their lot. Somewhat predictably the state favours uncompensated land-grabs, turning the land to more profitable (for the state) uses. All courtesy of the people.

      In short, property rights are helpful for development and reducing poverty, even though it's not immediately obvious. That does depend on the value of land use being higher than the costs, something that's not true everywhere on Earth, let alone the moon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by harry666t (1062422)
        I'd love to live in a world where people would stop trying to govern each other and start to base their relationships on friendship and love, or at least respect each other's personal freedom. And simply... Not get in the way of others.

        But we have that damn ego that keeps forcing us to kill and conquer and enslave. In the name of *WHAT*?
      • You see the outcome of this "Jesus-is-Lord" attitude in the case of the Fundamentalists Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. There,the patriarchal norms set down in the Bible are manifest in polygamous relationships eventually ending up in incest.

        In short, Christianity has clearly failed even though it's not immediately obvious.

        You can come up with irrelevant analogies all you like, that does nothing to prove that people do not have a HUMAN RIGHT to a home. This is a simple biological fact. Huma
    • by servognome (738846) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:19AM (#23502134)

      As a human born on planet Earth, I have a right to a plot of land for sustenance and shelter, in reasonable proximity to where I was born.
      That's great if you want everybody to go back to being self sufficient farmers - unfortunately most people prefer to have a better standard of living through specialization and trade.
    • by Logic and Reason (952833) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:20AM (#23502148) Homepage

      As a human born on planet Earth, I have a right to a plot of land for sustenance and shelter, in reasonable proximity to where I was born.
      Why?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Why not?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          1. Because with nearly 7 billion people and rising there is not enough land to make this even remotely viable - especially 'in reasonable proximity to where I was born.'

          2. Because it is an insanely inefficient use of land both in terms of housing and in terms of food production. In other words, it means less land for food and less food produced on that land.

          3. Because we can easily create more living space with landfill, by building up, or by using land where food doesn't grow. We can't currently create 'la
        • by Tim C (15259)
          Because it simply doesn't work in any densely populated area for a start, unless you stretch the definition of "reasonable proximity".
    • by Wyatt Earp (1029)
      Alright Free Waterfall Jr.

      I can own land. But that's because I'm not a penniless hippie.
    • I find it astounding that people will fight to the death arguing AGAINST people's right to have a home to live in and yet there are thousands of such individuals in every web forum you go to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      As a human born on planet Earth, I have a right to a plot of land for sustenance and shelter, in reasonable proximity to where I was born.
      As a bigger, stronger and (judging by your post) considerably smarter human than you, I have a right to whatever I goddam want; you have the right to whatever I choose to let you have, and only if I'm in a good mood.

      Oh, one other thing: I want a pony, and I want it now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      What a naive idea.

      OK, let's imagine the locale where you were born.

      You get 1000 sqm, as does everyone else in the region.

      You each have a child...whups - now your plots are each 500 sqm, as each child is now 'entitled' to their 'fair share', right?
      Oh, and the people on either side of you decided that they are going to each have 9 kids.
      Since your utopian idea requires that it be reasonably close to where you were born, suddenly your plot of land is now 150 sqm. Gee, too bad if you built a house on one of tho
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:50AM (#23501992) Journal
    Humiliated by the Americans beating them to the moon, the Soviets developed plans to send a massive unmanned rocket to the moon, laden with red paint. On impact, the paint would cover the entire bright side of the moon. A second, manned mission would immediately follow. The cargo - white paint, to make a bright hammer and crescent symbol against the red background.

    American intelligence learned of these plans. A great opportunity arose to foil them. But instead the American President, "Tricky Dick" Nixon, demurred. "Let them go ahead and paint the moon," he said.

    "But Mr. President, surely the image of the Soviet Empire covering the moon..."

    "After they've painted it red," said Nixon, "we'll paint the logo of Coca Cola."
  • by Rix (54095) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:51AM (#23501994)
    No entity can grant property rights they cannot enforce.
  • Heinlein (Score:5, Informative)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:54AM (#23502008) Homepage
    This is a Heinlein question--read The Man Who Sold the Moon, he has a lot of fun with it.
  • I've had my base on the dark side for years, nobody's bothered me yet. The existence of rights on the moon is determined by who wields power on the moon, not some piece of paper on earth. Unless nations on earth are willing to use violence to enforce these land deeds, then the deeds are worthless. I wonder how hard it is to launch moon rocks at earth.
  • "Land rush" and "land grab" are not the same. Putting up as much fence as you can afford around vast areas is just wrong.

    Of course some don't even bother with a fence. They just draw it on a map... a big splotch that says "MINE!"

  • by mgblst (80109) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:00AM (#23502030) Homepage
    http://www.lunarrepublic.com/ [lunarrepublic.com] Or just do a google search for lunar property for a retailor in your area.

    There was a show on this on the UK Channel Four a few months ago. The UN passed a resolution saying no country can stake a claim to the moon, but some joker realised it said nothing about individuals, and claimed it for himself. He has been selling lots on the moon for years, raking in millions.

    They interviews people who have bought it, some of them are quite serious. One said she couldn't afford land for her kids on earth, but she got them something on the moon, for the future.
    • by ejecta (1167015) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:11AM (#23502648)
      I "own" a lot of land on the moon, was given to me as a joke gift, complete with mining rights - if it turns out valid, it's one heck of a gift. If, more likely, it's just a piece of paper, it's still a really nice framed piece of paper! Complete with a map & co-ordinates of where my acre is.
    • by gsslay (807818)
      The people buying these 'lots' are paying for a fancy bit of paper that means nothing to anyone who may be either to recognise or enforce it. This guys business is treading the narrow ground between scam and worthless novelty items.

      From what I can remember about this guy's inconsistent logic; it seemed to depend on a loophole in international law, plus application of 19th century US property claim laws. Exactly how any nation's property laws are applicable to the moon is never explained. Particularly whe
    • Unfortunately he is using US property law to claim the moon and since the US does not own the moon (under the Space treaty) US law does not apply ....

      Nice piece if paper you have there ...
  • Reynolds missed the 1959 Antartica Treaty. [yale.edu] I thought he was some sorta law professor guy?? Seems to me the perfect model for a remote place that all nations might want to make claims on...
    • by RuBLed (995686)
      Yes, but no nation in their right mind would like to be declared war on by the whales. If you read the treaty again after knowing this possibility, you would realize it all make sense.
  • The question is not whether lunar rights are good, but whether any 'property' rights in land are. The arguments against property in land are strong. When someone creates something - adds value to raw material - it's reasonable that that person should have strong rights to the object created; they've put the work in. No-one (except the Dutch) creates land. People argue that 'improving' land gives the improver the right to it, but

    • There is no change that people make to land which is unequivocally an improvement; and
    • The value of the improvement is never a significant proportion of the value of the underlying land.

    Property rights in land all date back ultimately to theft: through the appropriation of a resource which was common to the whole community, and making it private to one individual. Mostly, that theft has been accomplished with the aid of serious violence, often genocide. It's a basic principle of the rule of law that you can never have good title to stolen property; so you can never have good title to land.

    Property in land creates persistent inequity in societies over generations, leading to highly stratified class systems and drastically reduced social mobility. It creates kakocratic societies, which reward the most dishonest and dishonourable; and it prevents communities from making efficient planning choices about their lands.

    Extending what has done such drastic harm to the Earth to other planets is the opposite of good sense.

    • beautiful theory.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Quadraginta (902985) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:18AM (#23502124)
      ...shame the historical facts squarely contradict it. Google "tragedy of the commons," or for a more concrete and squalid example look up the history of the Cabrini Green project in Chicago.

      Fact is, ownership of land has zip to do with any kind of ethereal moral justification. People want it because it makes them feel safe. Other people allow it because experience shows that when people are allowed to own land they take care of it better, preserve its resources better for the future, are more agreeable to allowing others temporary and conditional use of it (instead of defending it fanatically), et cetera and so forth.

      When land is held "in common" that just tends to mean a free for all where everyone grabs as much as he can of what's valuable about it as fast as he can before someone else beats him to it, with zero thought for the future. Sad fact o' life. All the lovely theories about how things ought to work, with, say, some other species, whose actions were driven strictly by pure logic, are quite nice -- but useless in practise.
      • by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t&gmail,com> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:13AM (#23502388)
        So, the problem is not whether land should be owned or not. We are the problem.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ejecta (1167015)
          If you think about it we're just like a virus. We enter an area, destroy everything, move on to a new area, destroy everything, repeat.

          The majority of humans seem to be completely at odds with humanity in general & the environment in which they exist - Seems like the vast majority lost something around 500BC that we never got back - the ability to share and live within our surrounds.
      • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @07:43AM (#23503126)

        when people are allowed to own land they take care of it better, preserve its resources better for the future, are more agreeable to allowing others temporary and conditional use of it
        Exactly, as for example when mining corporations stripmine a whole mountain top away, or logging companies denude the rainforests. As for being "more agreeable ..." go and tell that to the huge landowners, not least in UK, who have fenced off about half the country to keep the bloody commoners out of their property. Capitalism and consumerism is what more than anything alse has created out environmental and climate problems.

        When land is held "in common" that just tends to mean a free for all where everyone grabs as much as he can
        You evidently know all there is to know, don't you? The common lands, at least in England, were tightly regulated - everybody in the community had a certain right to access and use, but it certainly wasn't a free for all, far from it. In fact "free for all" is exactly how I would describe the socalled free market that seems to be an essential part of the modern capitalist cult.
  • It's simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:07AM (#23502064)
    Who owns anything? The person with the biggest stick.
     
  • They would claim vast swaths of land after just looking at it. However, whole areas frequently drifted from one country's dominion to another. What made the final difference? Force of arms.

    If you want to claim the moon, you have to put a fort up there. Because who cares if Joe Shmoe in Pasadena California bought the Danjon Crater for $2,500, when the Chinese put a guy up there with bazooka? Bazooka wins, end of story.

    Want to claim parts of the moon? Put force of arms up there. No other way about it. Don't like this fact? Take it up with human nature and human history. This is the only way this process has ever worked
  • We laugh now, but there's a bigger question at stake here. The moon is a pretty uninspiring ball of rock, but property rights on the moon would set a precedent for property rights on other planets. I figure we should just follow the same model we always have. Take the case of Holland vs England, for Australia. Dirk Hartog, and numerous other Dutch, landed on the west coast, and named the place "New Holland". Then along comes James Cook, to the east coast, and says it's "New South Wales". The dutch did
    • Afterthought: There should probably be a restriction on just how much of the moon a single person or corporation can own though... At least until it's all bought up.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:39AM (#23502230) Journal
    Both companies are counting on the ability to own part of this and mars. The underlying belief is that it will lead to emigration. But as to the moon, The prime real estate will be at the poles and where uranium/thorium is found. The reason is that the poles offer full and zero sun at the same time. In addition, both have some deep and steep caverans that allow for placing a ba-330 or better. The uranium is because that will allow for exploration of the moon, fast travel to mars, and of course, power on mars. Everybody speaks of he3, but it is the uranium that will suddenly become worth a great deal over the next 30 years. Keep in mind that most nations will come under fire for launching more than RTGs into space. With this on the moon, we can send it all over. In fact, we could easily put up a breeder and then send LONG lived plutonium to power all sorts of probes.

    No doubt about it; Bigelow and Spacex will be pushing private ownership hard.
    • by Kamineko (851857) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:45AM (#23502552)
      > The reason is that the poles offer full and zero sun at the same time.

      Lunar colonisation is not a zero sun game.
    • Uranium and Thorium are in abundant supply here. And it's a world of cheaper to crack open old containers of un-recycled "spent" fuel, than to fly to the moon.

      While were there though, why bother with nuclear reactors? Energy is hugely abundant, during daylight it's about 8-10kw per square meter, store in a thermal reservoir and your looking at round the orbit power. (Heat engines work REALLY well in space)

      Sunlight and a shallow gravity well, might in and of themselves be huge resources. I'm not the fir
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:57AM (#23502324)
    straightforward colonisation principles apply.

    Put aside all the theories, bar-room lawyers, treaties that aren't worth a dam' and the fools who are willing to hand over money here on terra-firma. All that will go out of the window (or would that be viewing port) as soon as someone finds a resource there that can turn a profit. Once that happens you've got a very slow gold rush on your hands. All the people back on earth who paid for a "claim" can yell all they want, they'll be drowned out by everyone else laughing.

    However the chances of anyone, or country, raising the capital to go there and set up a commercial enterprise are very small. The chances of them being able to turn whatever they find back into ca$h are even smaller and the chances of making more than the hundreds of billions they spend are infinitesimal.

    That's the reason so few people live in the Gobi Desert. It's thousands of times more hospitable than the moon (or mars, for that matter) and millions of times cheaper to get to. However there's nothing there worth having.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dak RIT (556128)

      That applies only if you intend to go there and stay. If you plan on coming back to Earth and then selling a product you acquired from the moon, you're going to be subject to whatever laws exist in that nation or nations, on Earth.

  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:26AM (#23502444) Homepage
    they first went there in 1945.

    And in 2018, they are coming back. [ironsky.net]
  • by gnarlin (696263) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:29AM (#23502474) Homepage Journal
    I think Bill Hicks said it best: "Stop putting a fucking dollar sign on everything." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo [youtube.com] Hey, how about keeping the moon the collective property of all humanity? Why do these rich pricks always have to own everything? They already own the property you are in and the land beneath your feet that you keep paying for every month. Not only that, but they can create money out of thin air with the wonderful fractional reserve banking system imposed on us. Bah, I've already rambled enough for now. Also, if you work in marketing, kill yourselves.
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @05:36AM (#23502516)
    ... but in reality, he's just a lunatic.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not to be extremely silly, but the system of property exchange typically works best if you have these characteristics:

    1. Some unique characteristics of each plot of land that relate to specific advantages of that land (so people will bid for the land, with the hopes of future returns to compensate for that bid, future returns being realised through an investment strategy)

    2. Someone previously owning the land (so a price is set at what the bidder will pay the seller)

    In this case, what form of propety allocat
  • by crazybit (918023) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:01AM (#23502602)
    discussing about solar system property rights...

  • if the moon would be used for anything I'm sure it would be used as a weapons platform when the tech becomes available, that in and of itself may actually happen.
  • Yeah, just because a land rush on the south pole might be just what we need to get things going again. Damn libertarians.
  • Hey, I have a great idea, let's repeat all our mistakes on this planet on every other one we visit! First, what we do is we start right back up on the next planet with this idea of parceling land out to people as if they weren't all interconnected by being on the same planet.

    I have a better idea, let's try some other models which are intended to produce a stable system instead of making life a less-than-zero-sum game, like for example when you buy property you buy property to a certain value of property;

  • If you can get there, stake a plot of land, and defend it against others, it's effectively yours. After a few years, your claim would likely be legally recognized as well.

    What people actually mean when they say that they want "property rights" is that they want to divide up the moon among people who then want to lean back and let other people do the hard work of exploring. In fact, that's quite analogous to patents, where people patent an application without implementing anything, and then wait for others

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