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The Case for Lunar Property Rights

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the title-check's-a-bitch dept.

Moon 387

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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Possession is nine tenths of the law. (5, Insightful)

mu11ing1t0ver (1175051) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501920)

I think if anyone can actually get to the moon, they'll have a valid claim on it.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (5, Interesting)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501956)

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.

location, location, location (5, Interesting)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.)

Re:location, location, location (4, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502374)

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.

Re:location, location, location (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502556)


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

You could mine the cheese.

Re:location, location, location (3, Insightful)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:location, location, location (5, Funny)

Notegg Nornoggin (1175269) | more than 6 years ago | (#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...

Re:location, location, location (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502638)

Whoops. Well, I got most of the letters right.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (3, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (4, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502250)

Yeah, well, that is not how a landrush works. Besides, there's the tiny problem of deciding who gets to manage that "limited" resource. In the end it comes down to being able to defend your property, individually or by delegating the defense to your nation on Earth or by forming a new nation and delegating defense to that. Going there would indeed be the most important precondition to that, unless you want to fight proxy wars on Earth over currently uninhabitable patches of moon soil. You can claim all you want: if I can establish a permanent habitat there first, what are you going to do about it?

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (0, Troll)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502396)

Developers place bids (cash and project proposals) to develop the property and written into the contract is the requirement to meet those proposals.
Sound's an awful lot like communism to me. Why can't we learn the sesson how we tried government meddling in the free market on earth and see where that ended up. Its depressing that the first thing we want to do in space is set up soviet styled collective's.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502620)

Sound's an awful lot like communism to me. Why can't we learn the sesson how we tried government meddling in the free market on earth and see where that ended up. Its depressing that the first thing we want to do in space is set up soviet styled collective's.

Yep. We should just let whoever wants to use any land just take it. If someone disputes a claim, they can settle it like Real Men, with an arm-wrestling match, without involviment from any sissy lawyers or bureaucrats.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502580)

Proposal: 100km parcel used to display advertisement. Ads will be deliverd by earth based gigawattlaser. Owner not worried about requirement for defending said parcel.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502350)

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.

Hey, that's just like Second Life! ;)

10 meters of fence and the moon is mine! (5, Insightful)

kanweg (771128) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (4, Funny)

QuantumPete (1247776) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501984)

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 ;-)

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (1)

craagz (965952) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502520)

Wouldn't this logic mean that Columbus and his entire shipload of sailors own the Entire North America?

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (1)

NotZed (19455) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502592)

Except America wasn't devoid of people when they landed.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (2, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502608)

No, because:

1) Columbus wasn't the first to "discover" North America. Vikings found it about four centuries before he was even born, and nomadic people from the Asian continent were already there.

2) Columbus discovered Cuba (and thought he was in India) which leaves the entire North American Continent proper up for grabs even if you ignore #1.

=Smidge=

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (3, Informative)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502642)

No, Columbus was sent by the king and queen of Spain and the Pope acknowledged that all land there was the property of Spain.

Columbus never went to NORTH america - he mostly visited Bahmas and Cuba and some of the other island there and some part of south america.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502114)

"Why fly to the moon in spirit when I could fly there in reality?", Noodle Horse asked himself. He sat on his pile of straw and pondered the idea.

Can I, Noodle Horse, build a contraption to allow the visiting of the moon by me? Will there be female horsies on the moon waiting for me there? Maybe I will hump them all and make moon babies. Millions of them. They'll run all over the moon taking dumps in the various craters. Hell, maybe I'll train them to shit in patterns that will be visible from Earth. I'll create radio helmets for them and send each horsie instructions containing the exact location of their next defecation.

Of course, I'll need some sort of moon GPS as well, or how else is each horse going to know where to dump a load? I need to be able to radio the longitude and latitude to every horse.

While I'm thinking about it, forget the normal longitude and latitude system we use on Earth. I'm going to make a waist line around the moon instead of an equator. 40% of the Moon is above the waist line and 60% is below. There are 10 flabs north of the waist line, and 10 flabs south of the waist line. This means a southern flab is not equal to a northern flab, which I hope confuses the hell out of any aliens or gun-toting Texans planning to visit. Each flab will be named after a politician on Earth. Between each flab will be five named orifices. A penis will denote 0.5 orifices. No reason will be given for this. Each orifice will be sub-divided into twenty-three midgets. Midgets are specified in hexadecimal south of the waist-line and in octal north of the waist line. Midget measurements shall be prefixed with the word "abusing".

Longitude lines will be given in nays, numbered zero to one hundred, with the zero mark aligned with the gigantic moon pussy I plan to erect near the mouth of "the man on the moon". (Since I'll be getting plenty of tail, the man might as well suck some taco.) Each nay contains fifteen hippies, and each hippie contains twelve named hot peppers.

Back to the GPS system... I will build the GPS satellites out of materials found on the moon. Since I have already figured out how to genetically manufacture animals, I will simply design creatures to process the raw materials and assemble the satellites. My circuit board etching squeal-hound can finally be tested. The solder gun penised giraffe-a-potomis will rise to duty, ejaculating solder and humping the resistors and capacitors into place. The whole operation will be powered by products fresh from the asses of solar panel shitting walcoons.

Once the GPS system is in place, I will finally be able to radio instructions to my horsies. To avoid confusion, all transmissions will be terminated with one of the following phrases: "you bastard", "get on it", "fuck off", "tittie!", "high noon you prick", and "cacameme oooon!". All coordinates and instructions must be given in the form of entertaining or strange sentences involving the aforementioned coordinate system. A new government bureau will oversee and enforce these encoding standards. Violators will be prosecuted. Prosecutors will be violated (and like it).

The radio waves emanating from the moon will contain phrases like "Horse 52, number two for you! Hillary Clinton's anus is abusing Midget 12, no stop for hay, 50 Nays, Tittie!". Horses must be entertained so they don't mind running 4 flabs abusing a midget or two just to take a dump. Why not use entertaining jingles so the horses will remember the instructions? The jingles can also be sent to earth packaged as Madonna MP3s, subliminally inserted into breakfast cereal ads, and covertly dubbed into pornographic video soundtracks. The goal of this? Mainly to scare Texans and to create wide-spread panic and consumer anxiety among novice paint-shop technicians and insomniac heroin shooting baby-sitters. Suddenly, people on acid will be super-normal and frogs will no longer ask to use your toilet in exchange for flap manipulation. This is my plan. Execute it or forever hold your pancreas!

Noodle E. Horse.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502594)

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.

Re:Possession is nine tenths of the law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502194)

Possession is nine tenths of the law.
Which law?

I think if anyone can actually get to the moon, they'll have a valid claim on it.
A valid claim under which law?

You seem to be assuming that all the world uses (or recognises) US-American law, or at least some sort of British-derived law. That's not true, though: there's different legal systems that evolved in parallel, and for entities/locations/... not currently under any jurisdiction, none of them are a priori any more applicable than any other.

That last point is really important, so think about it.

Of course, in reality, it'll all boil down to who's the most greedy (i.e., the first to ignore the moon treaty, openly or in secret) and the strongest (i.e., able to actually enforce their demands).

Um, flag planted years ago. (1)

WatcherXP (658784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501944)

The US Space Marines have been there for years.

Re:Um, flag planted years ago. (1)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502060)

I'm sorry but Oog, the first caveman, made the original claim on the moon. You'll have to fight it out with the rest of humanity for the property rights.

All jokes aside, the moon should fall into utilitarian use only. At this point, lunar property is essentially imaginary property for all but the countries with the most money to throw at a space program. Until such a time as when it becomes necessary to figure out who owns what, we shouldn't worry about it.

What's the next thing this guy is going to worry about? Settling property rights for those companies that sell stars?

Re:Um, flag planted years ago. (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502440)

Only because Thor Heyerdahl [youtube.com] chose not to plant a flag.

Antarctica strikes me as a good model that could also be used for the moon, as both are uninhabitable and relatively hard to reach. Not sure if a ban on mining would be necessary though. Would it be possible for human mining actions to alter the moon's orbit? I'm guessing not. And there aren't any ecological issues to worry about.

I wouldn't worry about companies owning stars, they'd only be able to charge for starlight that left the star after the deeds were signed. We'll all be long dead before any of it actually reaches us.

Gravity well (4, Insightful)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501968)

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 (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502192)

Thats assuming earth can become a monolithic force. we can't do anything to stop other countries even from polluting right now, much less stop them from building a moon base with mass drivers pointed at earth. Besides, why? they could send down millions of tons of high grade ore in a non-destructive way and get a lot more, like cpu's, and media, and other light weight, high value items, than if they just blew us up.

Re:Gravity well (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502422)

Nations are not so big a problem, because you can hit them back on earth self. But think of an isolationist sect, that could one day decide that the Earth is a sink of iniquity, and must be destroyed. That's the kind of problems that could happen with private colonization of the moon.

Re:Gravity well (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502470)

true, and the barrier of entry into mass destruction could be lower, but it seems we'd have that same problem with a hidden Terrorist cell who stole a nuke, and M.A.D. doesn't work against crazies on earth either.

Re:Gravity well (3, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 hope so! (1)

Hankapobe (1290722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502554)

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, golf course and everything.

Oh please, I hope the Moon doesn't become like FL!

Hill of beans (3, Informative)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501970)

"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:Hill of beans (0)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501988)

Possession and enforcement, just as you say, but only for entities that only care about their off-planet claims. A big Terran company would have too much at stake at home to just ignore the system. Only those with nothing on earth to lose would do it that way...

Re:Hill of beans (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502098)

"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 property on the moon existed in a vacuum (no pun intended). Any settlement of the moon, at least early on will be closely tied to resources on the earth. 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. Or in the case of a commercial interest they can start fining the earthbound portion of the company for illegal land use.

An agreement outlining "property rights" goes a long way to help settle disputes on how the land is to be used. We need the debates and create agreements upfront to prevent long and painful litigation, diplomatic conflict, or war.

Re:Hill of beans (2, Interesting)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502244)

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:Hill of beans (1, Offtopic)

mazarin5 (309432) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502268)

1^2=1; (-1)^2=1; 1^2=(-1)^2; 1=-1; 1=0.
Don't be stupid. The result is obviously 2=0.

Sorta? Maybe? (2, Interesting)

3HackBug77 (983153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501974)

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"

No property rights on ANY land (4, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Property is liberation (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Property is liberation (2, Insightful)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502366)

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*?

Re:Property is liberation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502452)

Get off my lawn hippie!

You want to play the analogy game? (2, Interesting)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502410)

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. Human beings, with the exception of perhaps Ron Jeremy do not have a furry exterior coat to protect them from the elements. Even if they did have fur to protect them, it is clear from observations of the natural world that even furry animals typically require a burrow to sustain their lives. Making creative analogies does not change that FACT.

Re:No property rights on ANY land (0, Flamebait)

IKILLEDTROTSKY (1197753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502044)

STFU YOU STUPID NIT

Re:No property rights on ANY land (4, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:No property rights on ANY land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502484)

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.
It is getting more and more to where it might be not only possible to do both, but ever more prudent as well. Organic brings a better price, is easier on the mind and "greener" in all respects. You could generate your own power as well as reduce your usage. Many "specializations and trades" could be done right from the farm, especially if you can afford to set up shop there and run a fiber optic line to it. Tons of reasons someone might want to go this route, especially someone with a family they want to try to create a safer and healthier environment for then most cities can provide.

When it comes to colonization the moon or another planet, those same items and more will have to be made to work.

captcha: acreage

Re:No property rights on ANY land (4, Interesting)

Logic and Reason (952833) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502148)

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:No property rights on ANY land (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502210)

Why not?

Re:No property rights on ANY land (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502378)

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 'land' to grow food as efficiently as it grows on actual land. Maybe some day, but when that day comes there will be no need for 'a plot of land'.

Re:No property rights on ANY land (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502418)

Because it simply doesn't work in any densely populated area for a start, unless you stretch the definition of "reasonable proximity".

Re:No property rights on ANY land (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502150)

Where in the constitution does it say that? The only truly inalienable right you have is the right to die, all else is just consensuses among people. In America the government can supersede all rights to land. The government is controlled by consensus, therefor we all have access to land, it's just consensus says let the market, where those who can derive the most value from land are those most likely to pay for it and than use it most productively, handle the allocation. Instead of some guy on a interweb forum. PLZ, I mean just PLZ

Re:No property rights on ANY land (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502180)

Alright Free Waterfall Jr.

I can own land. But that's because I'm not a penniless hippie.

Re:No property rights on ANY land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502414)

Lets not start the same heartless trend on Moon or even try to live there until we can behave decently on Earth.

You realize the sun will go nova before we accomplish that goal.

Thank you for saving me the time. (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502508)

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:No property rights on ANY land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502636)

Recycle yourself, hippy. Right now.

The year was 1970... (4, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501992)

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."

The power to tax is the power to destroy (4, Insightful)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23501994)

No entity can grant property rights they cannot enforce.

Re:The power to tax is the power to destroy (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502128)

Exactly. See how the Old World split America in several parts they "owned". See what happened then.

Heinlein (4, Informative)

Etherwalk (681268) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502008)

This is a Heinlein question--read The Man Who Sold the Moon, he has a lot of fun with it.

Do rights exist if you can't assert them? (2, Insightful)

Keys1337 (1002612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502018)

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.

Re:Do rights exist if you can't assert them? (1)

phagstrom (451510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502054)

Right you are....I can claim the right to all the land in the U.S., but seeing as I don't have any armed forces at the moment, the claim will sorta have to be put on hold.

In short - a claim is only worth anything, if you can back it up with power or force.

Keep in mind (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502024)

"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!"

The moon is already being sold... (3, Interesting)

mgblst (80109) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502030)

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.

Re:The moon is already being sold... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502198)

China also independently selling land on the moon and japan too

Stop them! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502036)

> '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.

Great. Spammers on the Moon.

Wish humanity would spend more time developing genuinely useful technology and less time on stupid law tricks like this.

Wow! - Reynolds missed 1959 Antartica Treaty (1)

elwinc (663074) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502038)

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...

Re:Wow! - Reynolds missed 1959 Antartica Treaty (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502206)

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 (3, Insightful)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502062)

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.... (3, Interesting)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:beautiful theory.... (3, Insightful)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502388)

So, the problem is not whether land should be owned or not. We are the problem.

Re:beautiful theory.... (1)

Dencrypt (1068608) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502586)

You are absolutely right. However, I'd like to point out that even though owning or rather "care taking" and distribution of resources is in place, a good law for public use is very good. I am proud of our laws here in Sweden (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam#Sweden) which allows all individuals to take whatever they need in the wilderness to survive and to go wherever we want and they have worked fine for 70 years now. Only been in the law though since 1994.

Re:The question is not whether lunar rights are go (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502256)

I've always thought of buildings as creating surface area, and that a two story building doubles the land and so forth up. I think land was based on theft, but then so were all things before we got decent rule of law. Now the person who lays claim to land is (usually) the person willing to pay the most, who are those who can make the most money from it. The 1880's are over, the working man won, we have the most egalitarian meritocracy in the world, things don't work like that any more.

It's simple (4, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502064)

Who owns anything? The person with the biggest stick.
 

Ownership too far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502100)

> Who owns anything? The person with the biggest stick.

Good point. 'Ownership' is an abstract concept. Works nicely for people who 'own' the stuff and not for people who don't.

First Ug the caveman told Ooba "You can't use this because I own it", and later Ug's grandson "Even though this land is huge I can't use all of it, I 'own' it because Ug said he owned it. You can't use this without my permission." Now taken to extreme by IP lawyers saying "My client 'owns' this thought, and you can't own it without paying me lots'".

Fortunately 'Ownership' breaks down when they oppressed rise up and smite the greedy. We're talking about you RIAA.

Re:It's simple (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502188)

On the moon it'll be the country with the most heavy lift.

Re:It's simple (1)

nbritton (823086) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502270)

The only right is the right of conquest.

Euoprean countries did this in North America too (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502166)

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

Bigger Question (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502196)

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 didn't do anything about it. In more recent events, America planted a flag on the moon, but they haven't actually colonized it yet. Whoever sets up shop first probably has rights to a reasonable plot of land around his facilities.

Re:Bigger Question (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502202)

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.

fp tro7l (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502216)

mire 0uf decay,

Coup d'etat (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502222)

I'm just waiting for someone to send a Sorcerer's Apprentice nanobuilder colony there, instruct it to cover the Moon three feet below the surface, mine the heck out of the layers below that, and then in a matter of weeks, cover the entire surface with commercial and civil structures, plus sufficient defence capability to fend off any stupid reactions.

Given that any kind of military response would have to involve the costs of not only getting out of a gravity well, but then attempting to establish a beachhead where every square foot of surface is already occupied by buildings, defended by rock-throwers and whatever other systems have been cooked up (surface-to-orbit missiles, ground-based lasers, enough co-ordinated crap in orbit to make anyone waste all their fuel on evasive manouvers), and swarming with invasion-eating nanobots, I can't see anyone bothering to make a physical attempt. They'd probably try angling for gaining control of part or all of the hyperstructure by digital attacks, espionage, or legal/diplomatic pressure.

Especially if it can be found out who (if anyone) is in charge of it.

Really, at some point you'd pretty much need to have a human population up there that considered the Moon to be a single legal/international entity and themselves to be citizens of it over and above any similar ties to any Earth-based country.

Alternatively, have chunks of the Moon operating independently of one another. They might be their own states; they might be extensions of Earth-based states. Their alleigances could well be all over the place, and the Moon would just be another economic and legal frontier battleground.

Spacex and Bigelow are counting on this (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502230)

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.

how hard can it be? (1)

amnezick (1253408) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502318)

just put the moon in the same basket with international waters and that's it: problem solved. No more poperty dispute since no one can own something.

Re:Spacex and Bigelow are counting on this (1)

Metorical (1241524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502514)

Quite interesting although I'm sure there's a whole raft of engineering problems when you're building a reactor in reduced gravity on the moon.

Re:Spacex and Bigelow are counting on this (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502576)

Why? if it is on the moon, it is reduced, not zero. Physics remains the same.

In fact, my understanding is that even one built for space (zero Gs) is a none issue. Only containment is an issue.

Re:Spacex and Bigelow are counting on this (3, Funny)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502552)

> The reason is that the poles offer full and zero sun at the same time.

Lunar colonisation is not a zero sun game.

The Man Who Sold The Moon (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502292)

The Moon stays constantly over a slice of Earth bounded by latitude twenty-nine north and the same distance south; if one man owned all that belt of Earthâ"itâ(TM)s roughly the tropical zone-then heâ(TM)d own the Moon, too, wouldnâ(TM)t he? By all the theories of real property ownership that our courts pay any attention to.
[I think all those airlines who had to pay indemnities for flying over settlements etc. were done in by this very logic ]
From the Man Who Sold The Moon ( Heinlein ) :P

Re:The Man Who Sold The Moon (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502526)

Bull shit, that some payments might be made to indigenous peoples with different conceptions is immaterial.
When you own land you own rights to build on the surface. This usually excludes mineral rights, and does not
preclude air rights. By your "logic" the whole universe has already been spoken for.

property taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502294)

Just another way for government to tax something they have no right to tax.

I OWN THE MOON (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502314)

I won it while gambling Buzz Aldrin, who stole it from Neil Armstrong while he was sleeping.

go there, stake a claim, defend it, it's yours (3, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

My montly communist slashdot rant (3, Funny)

gnarlin (696263) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502474)

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.

Lunar property rights? Most people call him crazy. (3, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502516)

... but in reality, he's just a lunatic.

on behalf of children and mother earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502532)

Not on your fucking life!

Lunar Property Rights (1)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502536)

I own the moon. Me and Danny Glover. Problem solved.

A slight spoke in the wheels (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23502588)

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 allocation system would they use?

- Whoever stakes a claim owns it? In that case, use a robotic buggy to drive all over the moon and "claim" in a ten mile diameter every morning. Not workable.

- You own precisely the pieces of land that is below what you have built on the moon? In that case the right to this propety is completely irrelevant, because for the forseeable future the amount of building will never come close to covering the moon's surface. This means that the "right to own" becomes an irrelevance in the consideration of whether to go to the moon or not, because there's no "early bird" reward and no penalty for being late.

- Some form of authority auctions out plots of land? Obviously meaningless, because no plot of land is any better than any other, so there's no incentive to bid more than the minimum price on every piece of the moon and pull the remaining bids as soon as you win one.

- Some form of authority gives a set price for plots of land? Will lead to a lot of mess and throwing of shit, because there will always be people going "it's too cheap". Besides, this require the deeding of the moon to this authority in the first place. If you don't trust, say, the UN Security Council, then why would you as a country on earth agree that the prime real estate above your head is auctioned off for their benefit?

I wonder if aliens have lawyers ... (3, Funny)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23502602)

discussing about solar system property rights...

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