Humans are going to Mars and when the first settlement on the red planet is established, it will need leaders and a system of government to keep everything in working order.
Human settlers might import American-style capitalism to Mars, establish a meritocracy on the red planet, or invent some entirely new form of government that hasn’t been tried on Earth.
Capitalism and its sibling consumerism might not be the best forms of government to establish on a world where the right to breathe might need to be a civil liberty.
When the engineer operating the air processing plant and the mechanic running the water purification system get together, who will decide what each Mars colonist has earned?
Maybe the astronaut who flew the spaceship that successfully landed on the red planet should be rewarded the most; or maybe the agriculture expert who specializes in space farming should earn the most profit.
It’s possible early Martian settlers will decide the idea of monetary gain should be eliminated entirely in preference to a system in which goods are owned by the community and available to all as needed. After all, what good is money if you can’t buy air to breathe?
With Elon Musk preparing to launch red planet settlers towards Mars and NASA spacecraft discovering potentially habitable exoplanets all the time, it’s a question that will need to be answered sooner rather than later.
With SpaceX, Mars One, NASA, and our international partners around the world all aiming for Mars, it’s becoming more likely the red planet will have several human colonies instead of just one.
Elon Musk, who has vowed to establish a Mars colony in the next decade, thinks the red planet should be governed by a direct democracy, the SpaceX founder told The Verge.
“It would be people voting directly on issues. And I think that’s probably better, because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy.”
Other thinkers argue human settlers on the red planet should look to Earth for guidance on a Martian government. A think tank in Seattle dubbed the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science recently published a report in Science Direct addressing the issue of a government on Mars.
The paper, titled “A Pragmatic Approach to Sovereignty on Mars” borrows from three established treaties regulating government actions here on Earth: the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The researchers base their ideas on the concept that no nation should own any celestial body and propose handing local authority to those living on Mars in a central government called the Mars Secretariat.
This government body would prohibit national ownership of Martian land, but permit private individuals and companies to extract valuable resources from the red planet within a certain radius, 100 kilometers. Their concept for a limited Martian government balances the ethics of the Outer Space Treaty that states space should be used to benefit all of humanity against private property rights.
The government on Mars would establish huge tracts of land set aside as Martian parks where scientists could experiment on untouched soil and rock samples hopefully undisturbed by the growing red planet industry.
At some point, the brave settlers who colonize Mars will stop thinking of themselves as Earthlings who live off planet and start thinking of themselves as Martians. When they do that, Earth-based governments will be hard pressed to keep them in line against their will.
With private companies already trying to mine asteroids and establish a space-based economy in orbit above Earth, it’s time to consider the implications of an off world colony, as University of Edinburgh astrobiologist Charles Cockell told the BBC.
“With this renewed effort in space exploration it’s becoming very important to think about who’s going to control space. Will it be corporations? Will it be the state? How is the individual to have any freedom in an environment that is absolutely lethal?”
What form of government do you think a Martian colony should take?
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