Saskia Vermeylen, a Senior Lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, shudders at the thought that there might possibly one day be private property and private enterprise in Outer Space. No, no, no, Space must be reserved only for collectivist statist administration.
Perceiving outer space as a commons was also another way of preventing national sovereignty in space. But neither the USSR nor the US was keen to fight out the Cold War on yet another front. Geopolitics dictated the decision to treat outer space as being non-appropriable.
This principle can be found back in Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which clearly forbids â€œnational appropriation by claims of sovereignty, means of use or occupation by any other meansâ€. It has been widely accepted: no one complains the various moon landings or satellites in space have infringed their sovereignty.
However, legal commentators disagree over whether this prohibition is also valid for private appropriation. …
[W]hile the idea of buying some lunar real estate might be fun, in order for these plots to be recognised as property there needs to be legal recognition by a superior authority such as a nation state. As states are not allowed to claim sovereign rights in outer space, landed property on the moon and planets will in all likelihood be outlawed.
Legal commentators are hopeful that states will remain loyal to the treaty and refrain from recognising or endorsing a private property claim. …
But all of these arguments are rather theoretical. If you just simply occupy a place and no one else can access or use it, arenâ€™t you the de facto owner? Lawyers call this corporate possession (corpus possidendi) and it represents another reason why title deeds cannot be a legal proof of lunar ownership â€“ no one is physically there. In order to possess something, both mind and body need to be involved. Intention alone is not sufficient; possession also requires a physical act.
The difficulty of physically establishing an act of possession on the moon should protect it from private development, but it seems technology is once again outsmarting the law. Back in the late 1990s commercial firm SpaceDev intended to land robotic prospectors on an asteroid to conduct experiments and claim it as private property. he project eventually ran out of funds and was shelved, but advocates of such â€œtelepossessionâ€ point to cases of salvage companies claiming undersea wrecks as property after exploring them with robots. After all, if an undersea probe with a TV camera was all that was required to take possession of a (previously owned, earthly) shipwreck, why shouldnâ€™t a space probe be enough to take possession of an unowned and unclaimed patch of celestial real estate? …
I get the uncomfortable feeling of a dÃ©jÃ vu. Was it not Lockeâ€™s property theory that justified possession over nature and vacant land and eventually led to the colonisation of the Americas?
And we all know how that worked out!
It is never easy to bring oneself to respond in seriousness to editorials so simultaneously fashionable and conventional in their perspectives, yet built upon such completely astounding and preposterous assumptions.
Saskia Vermeylen is a professional scholar specializing (with the support of Western society and the British state) in property theory, from “a critical socio-legal and philosophical perspective,” meaning that she is a Marxist communist and a committed adversary of the civilization, culture, state, and society in which she was born and educated, and which is currently supporting her professional career.
Saskia Vermeylen was educated (at Surry and at Lancaster, but she could just as well have acquired the same perspective at Oxford or Cambridge or Yale or Harvard) to believe that the European settlement of the New World and the development of the United States of America was overall a Bad Thing, and that it is somehow reasonable to imagine Columbus turning around and going home, and the European states of France and Spain and England, the Netherlands, and Sweden all declining, on moral grounds, to settle and develop unoccupied, newly discovered territories for fear of coming into conflict with the interests of Stone-Age barbarians residing nearby.
If Ms. Vermeylen is correct in her beliefs, it would somehow, mysteriously, be possible for the Iroquois to make war and compete for control of territory with the Hurons, the Susquehannoks, the Eries, and whomsoever; but not for Englishmen and European Civilization to compete with the Iroquois. If Ms. Vermeylen were remotely rational, it would be necessary for it to be possible to argue plausibly that, had Europeans never crossed the Atlantic, after four centuries, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas would themselves have constructed a state, society, and civilization worthy of comparison in artistic, scientific, philosophical, technological, and political achievement to the United States (and Mexico and Canada), equal or superior in the development of human potential and the promotion of human happiness.
It should be needless to note that imagining any such successful comparisons would be absurd. Consequently, there is no legitimate possible justification for Ms. Vermeylen’s treasonous and nonsensical perspective and no explanation for its etiology other than ignorant conformity to a certain kind of pathological local intellectual fashion.