Rod Liddle, writing in today's editions of The Guardian, is concerned that a select group of people in the United States have designs on Mars. Yes, that Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun.
As Mr Liddle tells it, there are hundreds upon hundreds of influential groups in America which want to terraform Mars and make it a human-friendly habitat. Such a proposition horrifies Mr Liddle, who warns that these patriotic Americans want to seize Mars from the microbes which currently inhabit it, and claim the planet for their own. He further argues that we humans ought not focus on space exploration when we have so many problems on Earth with which to deal, but this quasi-conclusion is secondary to his main claim: that the Americans want to conquer Mars, and they're going to ruin the place.
Now, I take great umbrage at this sensational and silly claim, especially considering that it comes from a skinny-toothed, round-shouldered, wretched Englishman.
This is not to say that I do not care for the English; I do very much. In many ways, that great and proud nation has much we as Americans ought to respect, just as Greek civilization rightfully received great respect from the Romans. But let's make no bones about this. When it comes to lording it over foreign territory, the British have few equals in history. As such, to have to suffer through a lecture about colonisation from this embittered scribe is nauseating. Perfectly nauseating.
But this got me to thinking. Why shouldn't we Americans take over Mars? No, really. I mean, Mr Liddle notes that we Yankees "have all the science," and it's not as if any sentient intelligence is doing any good with the place now. If we could ever make it economically feasible, I would say we ought to give it the old college try -- because so many non-economic factors and even some economic factors are in our favour.
For one thing, I don't doubt that we could find plenty of colonists willing to escape the wretched corners of the Earth where they now live, such as Sheffield. For another, if we provided that the American system of Government -- the best form of Government ever designed -- was imported to far-off Mars, we could ensure that the place would not turn into a wretched despotism in space. If we provided the proper tax incentives for people who moved to Mars -- let's start with no federal income tax, for instance -- we could jumpstart investment into the new realm. Finally, such a system would likely have great benefits for the people back home -- after all, it'd paralyze the bureaucrats from doing anything too rash if the common people could hitch a permanent ride off-planet.
Sadly, there are complications to this plan. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids any national polity from laying claim to space itself or any non-Terran celestial bodies therein. As an American citizen and alumnus of the University of Michigan -- the only two institutions whose flags have been placed by Man on lunar soil -- I find this treaty useless and dumb.
After all, just think what we could do if we made the perfectly reasonable claim that the Moon belonged to the United States. Not only could we do something important with the Moon -- such as store lots of really powerful weapons there -- we could easily ignore the carping of other nations and start developing it. I mean, surely there have to be precious metals and minerals someplace on the worthless rock. No one would care about nuclear power plants damaging the environment. The low-gravity environment would have all sorts of neat advantages. It would, for lack of a better term, rule.
Besides, as an American, I think I should note that the world's problems exist largely because most non-American Governments are corrupt and despotic. If the rulers of these said nations would clean up their act and grant their long-suffering inhabitants some measure of freedom, and develop a system of law which respected private property, they'd probably be much better off. So don't blame us, Mr Liddle, for the fact that most Governments on Earth still take great joy in looting the public fisc and sending irregular combat forces into their neighbors' territory to loot and pillage. It's not our fault, pure and simple.
So, I say we press forward with an agressive and far-reaching plan to seize the Moon and other celestial bodies in the Solar System, and claim them for our own. With so many positives on our side, combined with America's long-standing respect for the rule of law and private-property rights, we could make a really good go of things. And it might even have positives for folks like Mr Liddle. After all, if we Yanks are all working on colonizing Mars, we're probably going to care quite a bit less about the problems elsewhere on Earth. For someone of Mr Liddle's views, I suggest that could just be a win-win situation.Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 4, 2003 08:34 PM