Re: SPACE: ownership/homesteading

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 11:20:44 -0800 (PST)

Michael Lorrey writes:
>>Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko wrote:
>> At 04:26 PM 12/28/96 -0500, Michael Lorrey wrote: ...
>> >but until you plant a 17 year old kid with a gun and a flag on that damn
>> >hill, its not yours...."

I think the intuition here is that official borders often try to
approximate natural game-theoretic "Schelling Point" boundaries of
existing military powers. If there is a line such that if I expect
you to cross it I will want to try and repell you, and vice-versa, and
if given these responses neither of us wants to attack, then we have a
stable border. A "border" for which there is not such an equilibrium
is much less useful.

Under current military technology, putting a kid with a gun on a hill
greatly deters attack, relative to just a flag sitting there.

>> - Should I keep a 17yo kid on that hill of mine at all times, or he can
>> occasionally come down ?
>> - Will a 16 year old do?
>As nitpicky as you seem to be getting, basically we could use the old
>homestead laws that were used to govern the european settlement of the
>western territories of the US. You must maintain a constant human
>presence, be actively exploiting the resources....etc.

I don't think these old homestead laws will be that useful here; we
can't really create rules to approximate natural military boundaries
until we learn more about the military space technology that will be
concurrent with actual space colonization.

To the extent that there are large powers or legal systems which can
enforce contracts, then we can begin to think more in terms of
allocating space property rights in a more efficient manner, rights
which can be enforced via this power or legal system. But to the
extent that colonists are beyond the reach of such law, there isn't
much point in gaining such property rights.

Robin D. Hanson