Saturday, April 06, 2013
Mining Asteroids and Property Rights
Some time back, law professor Glenn Reynolds wrote a column titled, "Who Has the Right to Mine an Asteroid?" I haven't thought through the many issues it raises enough to form a strong opinion on many of them, but I was surprised to learn the following:
Those are the kinds of issues that lawyers grapple with. Space law used to be mainly an academic pursuit, but no longer--in fact, the American Bar Association just published a guidebook in the field. Most experts--including me--believe that a ban on "national appropriation" doesn't prohibit private property rights. The Outer Space Treaty was designed to prevent the winner of the 1960s space race from claiming the moon for itself. The United States and the Soviet Union were each worried about what would happen if the other nation beat it there. They were thinking of missile bases and territorial disputes, not mines or lunar tourist resorts. The "celestial bodies" language was added by way of expansiveness, but the Outer Space Treaty doesn't define the term, except to make it clear that the moon is one.Reynolds goes on to argue that asteroids, being movable, would be treated as personal property, while also acknowledging that, absent some means of enforcement, a Wild West type of situation would prevail.
An agreement called the 1979 Moon Treaty did try to outlaw private property on the moon and beyond, but no spacefaring power signed on, and it's generally considered a failure. It certainly wouldn't bind any American--or Chinese or Russian--company that headed for space. [bold added]
"Is it truly a 'guardian' -- or instead an incompetent, or perhaps a thief -- who presides over a loss of 95%?" -- Richard Salsman, in "An Overleveraged Fed Punishes Better-Capitalized Banks", at Forbes
"Not feeling good every moment of the day doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong." -- Michael Hurd, in "Is it Good to Feel Good?", at The Delaware Coast Press
"[Y]ou're in a position to question much of anything you were taught." -- Michael Hurd, in "Don't Blame Your Parents", at The Delaware Wave
"With nothing panic-worthy -- nothing even noticeable -- ensuing after 33 years, one has to wonder whether external reality even matters amid the frenzy." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Global Warming: Was it Just a Beautiful Dream After All?", at Forbes
My Two Cents
The end of the Binswanger piece goes a long way in explaining global warming hysteria, as well as the various other panics that keep popping up in our increasingly irrational modern culture. Continuing a little after the teaser quote above left off:
For the climate researchers, what matters may be gaining fame and government grants, but what about the climate-anxious trend-followers in the wider public? What explains their indifference to decade after decade of failed predictions? Beyond sheer conformity, dare I suggest a psychological cause: a sense of personal anxiety projected outward? "The planet is endangered by carbon emissions" is far more palatable than "My life is endangered by my personal evasions." Something is indeed careening out of control, but it isn't the atmosphere. [bold added]This would also explain the palpable hostility I sense from such people when I dare question what they, in turn, attempt to frighten me with: Global warming zealots and the like want validation in the form of widespread panic and the panic-relieving rituals they hope to foist on others.
Social Media vs. Blogging
Scott Hanselman appears to be on the same page as I regarding social media and its discontents:
His article contains a quote about "digital sharecropping", a term I expressed ambivalence about last week. That said, Google's recent announcement that it is killing its RSS reader (whose biggest use for me was enabling me to import my exported Netvibes RSS feed list into a Blogger feed list a few weeks ago) has me concerned about its long-haul commitment to Blogger. In Google's defense, I am able to copy it all easily enough into a standard format, which I do each week when I back up my Google accounts.
All these questions are asked about social networks we don't control and of companies who don't have our best interests at heart. We are asking these questions in 2012? Read those bullets again. These were solved problems in 1999.
- Why doesn't someone make a free or cheap social network for the people?
- Why can't I control my content?
- Why can't I export everything I've written?
- Who owns what I type?
- Why isn't there an open API for my content?
- Why can't I search posts over a month old?
- Why can't I have this or that username?
- Why am I not verified?