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102

THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 102, December 11, 2000
Living in Infamy

Thoughts on Forms of Political Economy on Mars — Part 1

by Alan R. Weiss
ArwECL@aol.com

Special to TLE

When dealing with Mars, one either deals either with science-fiction, or with NASA. That is to say, if you are going to think about what kind of society will exist on Mars in the near term, you either do your research in the science-fiction stacks of your local library or bookstore, or you deal with the worldview of the United States Government and its vision (some would say lack of such) regarding Mars exploration.

We all know that NASA, the US Government, and most quasi-governmental agencies expect that there will be a strong statist/government presence in exploring and eventually exploiting Mars (interesting choice of words, that). This is, at first blush, logical because it is US taxpayer dollars funneled into NASA that is footing the bill, and in fact it is US Government policy to discourage, if not actually prohibit, private exploration of Mars.

In fact, its part of the realpolitik that is at its very nature schizophrenic: on one hand, the statists seek an International World Order regarding solar system exploration—the International Space Station, the ESA-NASA-Japan technology and roadmap sharing, and the fear (and hence containment) of Red Chinese Long-March rocketry.

On the other hand, the US Government view is that America can lead this New World Order—or rather, New Worlds Order (plural). This may or may not be a dubious proposition; after all, Pax Americana has more or less stabilized world warfare into that which George Orwell discerned (in the voice of Emmanuel Goldstein) in "1984." Warfare occurs in the Third World, it occurs as terrorism, but not as overt World War. The enemies come and go (Soviet Union gone now, China next up at bat), but there are always enemies, eh?

That Pax Americana is based on economic power as well as military strength should be obvious, and the degree of American economic supremacy is exactly related to the degree that it allows free markets to operate. Statism, and government, leeches off of free markets, just as it always has. If America is to continue to lead the world, it must continue to be entrepreneurial and have at least a modicum of free markets (though not necessarily liberty or freedom— see also "Singapore"). Lets assume, for the moment, that this is the most likely scenario, Greenspan or no Greenspan.

Thus, the US Government "Martian Policy" is in fact just an extension of its current worldview—A New Worlds Order, with American leadership of it.

In a sort of planetary Gresham's Law, however, the bad drives out the good, and the good that is driven out—or rather underground—is private exploration and settlement of Mars. This clearly makes the New Worlds Order folks nervous, as they both fear that new/better/entrepreneurial technology might end up "in the wrong hands" and that which they cannot control inherently makes them nervous as hell. Since the US Government doesn't like being nervous about such things, my prediction is simple: it will not allow substantial privateer exploration of Mars, the Moon, or anyplace else outside Earth's gravity well. Initial government on Mars, therefore, will be militaristic, statist, "organized" in a sort of Soviet-5-year-Plan-ish way, and a bit backward. This is Phase One.

My conclusion, however, inevitably leads to the following question: once Phase One has been completed (that is to say, a meaningful number of people have landed and settled on Mars), will society on Mars be organized differently? The answer is one that now dives into the realm of science-fiction, of course. We are essentially asking, "what will the future hold?"

Science-Fiction has been of two minds on Martian government: one view is statist/militaristic/organized/communistic (small "c", please). The other is Heinleinian—Mars, after being settled by the statists, revolts against Earth, etc. etc. Surprisingly, this turns out to be a viable course of events, but one that we can short-circuit (A-B-Z, instead of A-B-C) if we are clever enough, and bright enough, to convince enough people that a free society (call it libertarian, minarchist, or anarchocapitalist for now ... we can argue that later, and will!) will "get us to where we want to go faster, more efficiently, and cheaper" than the statist-bureaucratic methodologies. We can, and we must—or else we will face a Martian revolt one day. Or be a part of one .

"What?" you say. "No appeals to liberty, freedom, capitalism?" Afraid not, my Martian friends. No one in modern government really believes in liberty, or freedom, any longer. Oh, the rhetoric occasionally shows up in various political contexts, but in fact the history of American, and indeed world politics in the late 20th century (and now the 21st) is "Orwellian warfare on the edges, Huxley's Brave New World on the inside." Marginal tax rates for Americans are actually well over 50% for most people if you include sales taxes, franchise taxes, fees, local, state, federal income taxes, taxes on business activities, and so on. In fact, Americans work mostly for Government of some kind or another for most of the year (except for the very poor, who are punished because they live in a statist society dominated by a government that stifles their ability to create wealth). Canadians are even worse off. Europeans, of course, are in the tank as of this writing (December 2000) and are taxed at over 80% of earnings—perhaps more.

But that's the economics. The personal liberties side is even worse off. Waco was not an abberation—it was an expression of the US Government's inherent belief that guns are evil (unless they own them all), lots of guns are therefore very evil, religion is to be suspected, and weird religions are by definition cults (better hope that the First or Second Coming of Jesus, depending on your faith, doesn't happen while these clowns run things. He's likely to face another Roman hanging party). You can't own sex toys in at least 8 states, you can't marry whoever the hell you want to, you can't ingest a natural weed that has medicinal properties (like saving you the awful pain of cancer), you can't exist on the planet for the most part without wearing authorized textiles, and you can't remember which goddamn TV channel lied less than the last one because every 60 seconds you are bombarded with advertisements that commit fraud as often as they entertain.

In short, this complete disregard for Basic Liberty (the notion that you are a free person, able to self-govern) has been replaced by "we will grant you, selectively, not rights but privileges." Gentle Reader, you find that there is no government on Earth of any significance that gives a damn about liberty, freedom, and free markets. There is no L. Neil Smith Propertarian Society. Catastrophes will come from Nature, and from Man/Woman, but the more likely scenario is a grinding down towards limited economic mercantalism/state capitalism (translation: fascism, folks) with increasingly restricted personal freedoms. You dojn't have to worry about a NEO (Near Earth Asteroid) wiping us out—the government is doing it as surely as if Ceres dropped into your laps.

So no—appeals to freedom, liberty, and so on will fall on deaf ears. But appeals to efficiency, cost-savings, and even "they're expendable" will resonate. That's one reason why Robert Zubrin's vision of living off the (Martian) land has finally gotten through to the bureaucrats at NASA. And it may hold the key to evolving into Phase Two much faster than the gloomy statist picture I have just painted would suggest.

We cannot avoid Phase One—the statist exploration of Mars. But we can accelerate Phase Two—the decentralized, rational-anarchistic, propertarian/libertarian approach and world-view if we recognize that we have to out-maneuver the statists/crypto-fascists/communists. That will be the subject of Part 2 of "Thoughts on Forms of Political Economy on Mars."

Here's the deal, though: I claim no genius in these ideas. Feel free to jump in, disagree, yell, wax poetic, agree, improve-upon, or discard into the bit bucket any of what I just wrote. These are "open source" thoughts. Get off your ass and contribute.

Alan R. Weiss
Austin, Texas, North America



About the Author: Alan R. Weiss is a father (of 3 kids), husband (of 1 wife), business owner (of the EEMBC Certification Laboratories, a private certification lab catering to the semiconductor and embedded software industries), and an aspiring writer and film director. Alan is an individual who is a member of The Mars Society—Austin Chapter, The Planetary Society, the National Rifle Association, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, The Naturist Society, IEEE, and the Westwood High School Marching Band Booster Club. A Libertarian Since 1978, he admires Murray Rothbard (economics), Robert Heinlein and L. Neil Smith (science-fiction and freedom-loving writers), R.W. Bradford and John Hospers (libertarians), Fred Pohl and Larry Niven (decent sci-fi writers, too), Lynn Conway (brilliant transsexual computer architect screwed over by corporate America for being who she is), Charlton Heston and Aaron Zelman (for defending your right to defend yourself), John Frankenheimer, Curtis Hanson (great film directors), his employees (for keeping his ass out of the fire), his customers (for being clients who pay on time), his parents (for trying), and most of all his wife and kids (who put up with him). He can be reached at:

ECL, LLC
13492 Research Blvd, Suite 120, #133
Austin, Texas USA 78750
512-219-0302
alan@embedded-benchmarks.com
http://www.ebenchmarks.com


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