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Privatization Of Space

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The Guru Kid
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Should the government allow private companies to compete for space? My guess is Objectivism would say "yes" but I would still love to hear the reason behind it.

Since the restriction is a positive, I'll play devil's advocate and put some reasons up here:

1. Privatization would lead to dozens of companies wasting millions of dollars to see who can capture the land on moon, mars etc.

2. Since there are no real "laws" in space, nothing would prevent them from fighting to capture lands.

3. If the companies are just as unsuccessful as NASA, many of them will collapse and would cause further economic downfall.

p.s. I hope this is the right place for this topic.

[Edited for capitalization. Matt]

Edited by Groovenstein
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p.s. i hope this is the right place for this topic.

It's not. As it implicates property rights, I moved it to "political philosophy" and left a link in the original forum so you can still find it. Also, please remember that the forum rules require capitalization of "Objectivism." I fixed it for you, but next time the mateys and I chop off your hand. :)

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1. Privatization would lead to dozens of companies wasting millions of dollars to see who can capture the land on moon, mars etc.

Why would they be wasting millions of dollars? If they didn't have a way to make a profit off the land, then they wouldn't waste money acquiring it in the first place.

2. Since there are no real "laws" in space, nothing would prevent them from fighting to capture lands.
That's not profitable. It takes billions of dollars to wage war. I doubt a chunk of the moon is worth that much money. Not to mention that on top of the billions spent waging the war, billions more would have to be spent investing in the land (building ships to go there, transporting construction equipment, building something, marketing it, etc). After it's all said and done if financing a war was involved in the investment, I really don't think it would be worth it.

3. If the companies are just as unsuccessful as NASA, many of them will collapse and would cause further economic downfall.
NASA is unsuccessful because no one is competing with them. If you have a space race between companies, competition will force them to be much better than NASA.

Also, space research has many applications down here on Earth as well. If a company finds a new, more efficient way to power their rockets, but loses the space race because of some other factor, then they still have a product that has uses in many other markets.

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Should the government allow private companies to compete for space? My guess is Objectivism would say "yes" but I would still love to hear the reason behind it.

Since the restriction is a positive, I'll play devil's advocate and put some reasons up here:

1. Privatization would lead to dozens of companies wasting millions of dollars to see who can capture the land on moon, mars etc.

It is the right of the companies to spend money as they want to. Who decides if the money will be a waste? If you think anyone but the owner of the money gets to make that decision, that's a violation of Objectivist property rights. As a corollary, companies have the rights to take risks. Property rights aside, if every risky investment were prohibited by a government because it is a "waste," then where would the economy be?

2. Since there are no real "laws" in space, nothing would prevent them from fighting to capture lands.
The laws that would properly govern space should be the same laws that SHOULD govern every other piece of land or ocean, these being natural law. According to natural law and the Homestead Principle, property rights come into existence as soon as someone occupies or improves a given space. Therefore, if a company builds a colony on the moon or builds some sort of fixture, they own the moonland that whatever they built covers.

3. If the companies are just as unsuccessful as NASA, many of them will collapse and would cause further economic downfall.

see #1.

I think it would be awesome if there were space colonies in my lifetime, though I don't foresee it happening.

p.s. I hope this is the right place for this topic.

[Edited for capitalization. Matt]

(Fixed quote-blocks. sNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
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It is unlikely that a private corporation would "waste" money on space exploration; it's very likely that the government would.

Space travel is expensive, and most companies - even those with very individualistic CEOs - have a board of directors and outside investors that get voting priveleges on new venture capitalist endeavors. If (for example) Microsoft doesn't care about space stations, Bill Gates risks losing his company by divesting corporate funds against the board's interests. When people like Dennis Tito and Richard Branson invest in space flight, they're using their own personal money, or money that was raised by them from others interested in the same thing: private space flight.

The government will waste that money because they'll do it for all the wrong reasons. We have to beat the Reds to the moon, or the President gets a Senator's vote on a foreign aid bill if he gets more pork-barrel cash to keep a rocket test facility open. There are a number of other reasons for the goverment to maintain a facade of interest in space flight, but none are directly serving the interests of economic development.

Besides, as a consumer, you have some control over private space flight. Let's say that Coca-Cola is pouring money into space planes, PepsiCo is paying for public landmark restoration, and those irritating Fanta girls are sponsoring PETA rallies: when you go buy a soda, you can make a choice based on who you support. Apply that on a massive scale (how many sodas are sold in a day?), and the success of those companies' activities is directly dependent on how much revenue they bring in. If the consumers don't like something, they'll boycott .... more than a decade after Prince William Sound, I still know people that would rather push their car uphill to a BP than spend a dime at Exxon.

With the government, space flight requires unnecessary levels of redundancy, protocols that make little sense, compromise on every decision, little to no real risk-taking, and whatever else it takes to make as many people as possible care about a shuttle launch. It costs way more, and that money comes involuntarily out of your earnings. What if you care more about Yellowstone than Mars? What choice is there with a beauracracy making the decisions?

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Privatization would lead to dozens of companies wasting millions of dollars to see who can capture the land on moon, mars etc.

I assume that by this you mean that it would be a waste for each company to spend the money: a duplication of effort. Am I understanding the position correctly? (I realize you're playing "devil's :) advocate" )
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As an aside, synthlord, can Bill Gates risk losing control of Microsoft? Yes, as CEO he may in theory be liable to a board of directors, but as the majority owner he controls the board of directors. If they fire him, he can elect a new board that will appoint him as CEO. Are there any checks on majority owners of corporations?

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As an aside, synthlord, can Bill Gates risk losing control of Microsoft?  Yes, as CEO he may in theory be liable to a board of directors, but as the majority owner he controls the board of directors.  If they fire him, he can elect a new board that will appoint him as CEO.  Are there any checks on majority owners of corporations?

Do property owners need "checks" on how they can use their own property? :confused:

Edited by Captain Nate
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I probably should have fabricated a parable for that scenario, rather than use actual names of people & companies with whom I have no knowledge ... :lol:

But .... as majority owner BG can do what he wants ... however, it could have long-term fallout that could hurt the company, especially if their product development is dependent on BG's re-investment in the company. (I have no idea about this, I'm just speculating with names here.)

If BG decides that he's not so personally interested in operating systems any more, and he wants to build moon rockets, that could be a very risky move: destabilizing the company, ultimately affecting customer confidence and profits.

So BG would have to carefully assess the risk of pouring billions into completely speculative, dangerous, and expensive capital ventures. If he decides to do it, and even bankrupts MS in the process, it's not 'waste', as Guru Kid stated. It might be a failure, but it would only be a waste if BG approaced the endeavor from a completely irrational, non-scientific direction.

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It isn't the government's decision-- or right-- to stop companies from spending their money on certain projects in case it might lead to economic depression.

The Government's job is to protect the rights of the citizen in it's country. A government should not have any claim to the property of it's citizens ever. What you are suggesting is that the money you have in your bank account belongs to the government. That supposes a misunderstanding of a goverments job. What you are suggesting is socialist in nature, in that you are saying that the goverment should decide how investments are made by it's citizens.

The goverment's function is not to be some entity which lords over people and makes broad abstract decisions (or concrete ones for that matter) on economic policy, it is to make sure that people are safe and that people's rights are not violated.

What you are suggesting is the exact opposite of the whole point of government. I'm sure others will explain the rest.

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thank you for the comments

4. There's a lot of "space junk" or debris floating around because of the previous flights. If private companies went up too, the junk would dramatically increase.

Some suggest some form of taxation or regulations. Sort of like Littering tickets in space i guess.

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4. There's a lot of "space junk" or debris floating around because of the previous flights. If private companies went up too, the junk would dramatically increase.

Some suggest some form of taxation or regulations. Sort of like Littering tickets in space i guess.

I understand that people are angry because of litter on the street, but who cares about litter in space. There's nobody there. The only ones who care may be the very companies who do space travel. So in the end they harm themselves and have to correct it themselves. If it becomes profitable, you can start a space garbage collecting company. You'd make a fortune and the space explorers would love you for it.

I wonder if one day there will be property rights for empty space. I guess it will appear. Then you can create your own planet (well, maybe with some billion other people). That's a real estate business I would like :)

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I understand that people are angry because of litter on the street, but who cares about litter in space. There's nobody there. The only ones who care may be the very companies who do space travel. So in the end they harm themselves and have to correct it themselves. If it becomes profitable, you can start a space garbage collecting company. You'd make a fortune and the space explorers would love you for it.

I wonder if one day there will be property rights for empty space. I guess it will appear. Then you can create your own planet (well, maybe with some billion other people). That's a real estate business I would like  B)

It might be because some of that debris could end up hitting you much faster than a rifle bullet, which could ruin your whole day/spacecraft.

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Is space debris really that much of a problem? Would it be?

Space is really big, and the chances of getting nailed by something are probably comparable to the chances of getting hit by a meteorite that's been floating around since the formation of the planets.

A lot of debris would stay inside the gravity well, and burn up in atmospheric re-entry. Some of it might escape the gravity well, and be hurled into the void. I imagine only a small amount would actually remain in orbit, and there would be a small probablity of it becoming fatal projectiles.

Besides, if things are falling off space ships at such a rate that it causes serious orbital impact concern, the ship designers need to go back to the drawing board.

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Is space debris really that much of a problem? Would it be?

Space is really big, and the chances of getting nailed by something are probably comparable to the chances of getting hit by a meteorite that's been floating around since the formation of the planets.

The problem with space debris isn't the debris "out there", but the debris that gets stuck in orbit, and clutters around the Earth itself at high speeds. NASA has been worried about this for a while, if I recall correctly.

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Objectivist reasoning for the privatization of space

To address your topic, piecemeal, I will respond in similar fashion as you posted.

1. Ayn Rand would absolutely agree with fervent competition to achieve domination on the moon and space in general. The basic tenets of her philosophy state that since those millions of dollars would be owned by those individual companies, respectively, none of it would be a waste because they chose to invest. When private ownership is involved, then automatically a stake in the matter gets created and once again one's self-interest and current task become amalgamated. When these two are united, thinks Rand, the only hindrance is the scope of that individual or company's vision.

Rand's ideas about human nature suggest that one is more inclined to waste something that has not been earned; for example, NASA and its budget is paid for by the US taxpayer. Since the big companies have vested economic interest, they will not act without care or lack the drive and vision necessary.

2. Beginning in 1961 with the United Nations Treaty for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, laws have been enacted to try and limit conflict from ever leaving the earth. If, for example, an American company mines Helium 3 from the moon, their property rights will be a source of contention and probably outrage from the international community. There are so many international laws that deal with space, but the 1967 Moon Treaty, article one clause three states: "This Agreement does not apply to extraterrestrial materials which reach the surface of the earth by natural means." Any sly lawyer could exploit this clause to include elements, like Helium 3, reached the Moon by natural means and are therefore able to be confiscated and exploited by the first person to "discover" them. Linguistic gymnastics aside, there are so many restrictions to space and this, more than anything, is probably the source for continued ban on private companies from even attempting to explore that possibility. For the worse, I might add...

3. If those companies fail, then they failed because they lacked the skill and it is no one's fault but their own, according to Objectivism. Laissez-faire capitalism functions that way: no balls no black chips, as they say.

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Should the government allow private companies to compete for space? My guess is Objectivism would say "yes" but I would still love to hear the reason behind it.

Since the restriction is a positive, I'll play devil's advocate and put some reasons up here:

1. Privatization would lead to dozens of companies wasting millions of dollars to see who can capture the land on moon, mars etc.

"Waste" implies, lets see:

To use, consume, spend, or expend thoughtlessly or carelessly.

I highly doubt that companies racing to claim land in space for their own profit would be money expended thoughtlessly or carelessly. Therefore, it is not a 'waste,' merely an investment that may or may not pay off (as any investment.)

2. Since there are no real "laws" in space, nothing would prevent them from fighting to capture lands.

The logistics alone would mean fighting in space just plain old isn't worth it. But the fact is, the laws that govern space should be the same laws that govern any rational society - property rights, etc.

3. If the companies are just as unsuccessful as NASA, many of them will collapse and would cause further economic downfall.

The government is not an economic overseer. Its there to protect individual rights. You are proposing it take on a function it is neither equipped nor has a right to.

No case at all for restricting private ownership in space, though the concept of 'land' will have to updated to include "slots" in orbit, as they will be valuable.

Edited by Pancho Villa
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The privitization of space implys that private companies have access to space. That is, that they are permitted to travel into and out of space freely. Does anyone know if this is the case?

I also think that the role of government is defined as the protection of rights. I do not see government having much juristiction on a moon mining operation, for example. I would think that any sort of lunar colony or space group would need to establish a government or body of elected leaders in the event that a long term settlement (whether research, or industrial) is established. This would serve and function as a basic entity only. This would be analogous to the colonies in the early America's, in that simple governments and leaders were established.

Like any wise investment strategy, any sort of space junk or waste would be something the companies address on their own without the regulation by a governing body. There would be reason to consider all possibilties during the planning stages as "space junk" could pose a problem for safety, or perhaps, some of it could be collected and recycled to become part of the colony.

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